Sleuths wanted for history’s mysteries

Exhibit seeks public’s help identifying people, places and things in old photos

By Elisa Williams, Columbian staff writer



Exhibit seeks public’s help identifying people, places and things in old photos

Solving mysteries that reveal our past is part of what makes the Clark County Antique & Collectible Show fun.

That’s why, along with dealers, the show features a booth where attendees can bring items from their homes for an evaluation by an appraiser.

“It’s always a surprise to find out what people have in their homes,” said show manager Chris Palmer.

One year someone brought in a toy horse made with real horse hair and a leather saddle.

“That’s an East Coast kind of thing,” Palmer said, who added that the toy was about 120 years old. Families who traveled to settle the West didn’t keep old toys, “they left that kind of thing behind,” she added.

In that spirit of discovery, the Clark County Historical Museum will host an exhibit at the show called “Clark County’s Most Wanted” featuring photos that remain a mystery to the museum staff.

If You Go

• What: Clark County ­Antique & Collectible Show.

• When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 17.

• Where: Clark County Event Center at the ­Fairgrounds, 17402 N.E.

Delfel Road, Ridgefield.

• Admission: $6, which is good for both days, $3 for children 12-17, free for children 11 and younger.

• Information: 503-282-0877 or http://www.palmer...

The hope is that the public will help fill the voids and learn something in return by visiting the display.

“It helps build the historic record and gets the community involved,” Robert Schimelpfenig, an archive specialist at Washington State University Vancouver, said of the exhibit. Schimelpfenig is working with the museum on a project to preserve its historic photos as high resolution digital images that can also be displayed on the Web.

The timing of the exhibit couldn’t be better.

The museum recently received a second grant for digitizing the photos in its collection, said Susan Tissot, executive director of the Clark County Historical Society and Museum. To date about 5,300 images are available here . That’s about a quarter of the 20,000 images, including slides and glass-plate negatives, that the museum has in its collection.

Unknown faces, places

Many of the mystery photos have unidentified people.

One of those is a photo from the late 1800s showing a group of soldiers at the Vancouver Barracks.

Others are of places.

One shows a city block that had four churches on it with a view of Mount Hood in the background.

Another is of a ferry dock along the Columbia River, which was taken in the early 1900s.

The museum selected photos that “spark curiosity,” said Tissot.

Along with the mystery photos, the museum will display photographs that reflect the region’s rich history. Among them are images of the street cars that once traveled through downtown Vancouver in the early 1900s and the homes with distinctive architecture that defined neighborhoods before they were razed during the urban renewal period of the 1960s and 1970s.

The museum will also display a variety of artifacts related to photography such as cameras and projectors.

Appraisals offered

This is the second year the show’s organizers have invited the museum to be a part of the show, which features about 400 booths selling furniture and decorative items, toys, vintage clothing, art, movie memorabilia and jewelry.

The evaluation booth, manned by members of the International Society of Appraisers, is also a show staple. The cost of receiving a verbal evaluation is $5 per item and appraisals are done on a first-come, first-served basis.

Among those working in the booth this year will be Don Jensen, who has appeared on PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow,” Palmer said.

Those who don’t have an item to be evaluated can watch the process. Often appraisers spend a lot of time with an item and share background about how it was made and used.

The people who attend the Clark County Antique & Collectible Show typically have a keen interest in regional history and appreciate that level of detail, Palmer said.

“We like to have people leave with a warm feeling that they saw something that was germane to them.”