Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Label Those Photographs (and Check Your Information)
On December 7, 2011, MSNBC posted a photo online of four women holding a firehose. The photo was labeled as showing four women fighting fires after the attack on Pearl Harbor, as per information from the Getty Images collection, but did not give the names of the women. MSNBC asked if anyone could identify them. A reader contacted a writer and former librarian who had planned to write a book about the lives of women during World War II, and she was able to find the photo within minutes in the Hawaii War Records Depository. The entry gave the names of the four women and didn't say anything about the attack on Pearl Harbor. The next photo in the online archive showed the same four women obviously on the same day, wearing the same clothes, but in a less dramatic pose. MSNBC posted a follow-up on December 12; they tracked down the lone surviving woman of the four (she is now 96 years old), who explained they were being trained to use the firehoses but were not doing so on December 7.
Now, this particular photograph generated a lot of controversy, and some people claimed it was a fraud. While it is unlikely your family photographs will create that kind of situation, it is possible some family members will disagree about who is in a photo or when it was taken. Rather than taking sides, try to find out as much information as you can and talk to as many relatives as possible. Then analyze the information and come to a conclusion, and share your reasoning with everyone. You may still have some disagreements, but at least everyone will know how you came up with the answer you did.