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Hidden History: Mystery Photos

This blog post is part of a series exploring the surprising places that we discover history. We often think of museums, historical societies, and libraries as the sole repositories of our past. Yet, hidden histories are everywhere! Stories are often buried away in the least likely of places and we at HistoryIT love unearthing and saving them. In today’s post, we look at a beautiful story about some lost – and then rediscovered – photos.

Photo evidence

In 2015 Irish camera collector William Fagan purchased a Leica camera that dates back to 1935. It took him until the summer of 2020 to develop the film inside the camera. When he did, he found 22 pictures of a glamorous young woman traveling through Europe.

Fagan was fascinated by the photos and wanted to know more, so he shared the photos online in the hopes that others could identify the woman or any of the other people with her in the photos. Thanks to what he calls “photographic archaeology,” people have pinpointed the make of her car and have identified one of the landscape views as having been taken from the window of a specific hotel in Switzerland, but to date nobody has been able to solve the mystery of who any of the people are.

For every fact unearthed, a roadblock exists. Car registration records don’t date back far enough. The Swiss hotel doesn’t have visitor records from that time frame.

The story remains unknown

While Fagan and many others have thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, Fagan acknowledges that there may be a sad story behind the otherwise happy photos. For starters, what happened that led to the camera ending up for sale with undeveloped film still inside it?

Whatever the answer to that and other questions surrounding the mysterious photos, Fagan maintains hope that one day he will get the answers he seeks and be able to present prints of the photos to the relatives of the people in them.

History gets lost every day

While this story gained more publicity than most, people are constantly unearthing family photos or historical photos with no identifying data attached. If you care enough to take and store a photo of someone, you should also take the time to identify the people, date and location of the photo so that future generations don’t have to embark on an international hunt for answers.

This is what we do at HistoryIT – unearth hidden stories and help people and organizations digitally preserve them in a manner that maintains the original photographs and makes them easily searchable by others. To learn more about how you can prevent history from being forgotten, check out this blog.

Curious about the mysterious European photos? Read the full story.

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