Mysteries of the Archives of American Art

January 4, 2023
A blue and white graphic reading Mysteries of the Archives of American Art with a fingerprint and magnifying glass.

Project Overview:

The Archives of American Art’s online initiative Mysteries of the Archives of American Art involves the public in helping identify unknown figures in photographs across the Archives collections. Many photographs that are part of the Archives of American Art’s various collections include individuals whom the Archives has not been able to identify, and some of these individuals are from historically underrepresented and less-documented groups, including women and people of color. Please join us in solving these mysteries by exploring selected photos below.

How to Get In Touch:

If you have leads, clues, or ideas of who the unknown individuals may be , email us at AAAMysteries@si.edu. Your email should include:

  1. Your first and last name
  2. Your organization, if applicable
  3. Your preferred mode of contact, should we need to reach you (e.g. email address or phone number)
  4. The photo name (for which you are identifying the unknown individual)
  5. The name of the individual you believe is the unidentifiable figure in the photo or any information you may have that could help us identify the individual
  6. Your level of certainty in the information you provided

Also Available on Social Media:

Follow us on social media—TwitterFacebook, and Instagram—to view newly released Mysteries of the Archives of American Art photos.  We welcome you to share our posts and photos with your network using the hashtag, #MysteriesOfTheArchivesOfAmericanArt. 

Three men in an art studio with pots and dishes. One is kneeling, one is bending over, and one is standing upright, all as they are cleaning dishes
Andrew Dasburg and others in his studio, 1910. Photographer unknown. Andrew Dasburg and Grace Mott Johnson papers.

What: The three men appear to be cleaning dishes

Where: Dasburg's Paris studio, 115 rue Notre Dame des Champs

When: circa 1910

Who: Andrew Dasburg (left, kneeling) and two unidentified figures (center and right). The upright man could be Ronald Moser, Dasburg's studio mate.

 

A group of six people sit around a table, some at a booth and some in stools, with drinks in the middle on the table.
Bob Thompson, Nancy Dannenberg, Danielle and A.B. Spellman with two unidentified figures, at Jazz at Slugs, New York, 1964. Raymond Ross, photographer. Bob Thompson papers.

What: A group of six sits around a table, enjoying drinks and good company

Where: Jazz at Slugs, in New York

When: 1964

Who: (L to R) Bob Thompson, Nancy Dannenberg, Danielle Spellman, A.B. Spellman, unidentified woman, unidentified man

Two women stand, looking towards something. The woman closer to the camera is standing at a side profile view.
Betty Parsons with an unidentified woman, circa 1977. Photographer unknown. Calvert Coggeshall papers.

What: The two women appear to be in an art gallery, looking at a piece.

Where: Unknown

When: circa 1977

Who: Betty Parsons (right) and unidentified woman (left)

Help us solve the mystery: Who is this unidentified woman appreciating art with Betty Parsons?

Two women stand smiling and looking at something.
Alma Thomas with an unidentified woman at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1972. Jack Whitten, photographer. Alma Thomas papers.

The Mystery:

What: They are at an exhibit opening of Thomas' retrospective

Where: Whitney Museum of American Art

When: 1972

Who: Unidentified woman (left) and Alma Thomas (right)

Help us solve the mystery: Who is this unidentified woman with Alma Thomas at her opening?

How to Get In Touch:

If you have leads, clues, or ideas of who the unknown individuals may be , email us at AAAMysteries@si.edu. Your email should include:

  1. Your first and last name
  2. Your organization, if applicable
  3. Your preferred mode of contact, should we need to reach you (e.g. email address or phone number)
  4. The photo name (for which you are identifying the unknown individual)
  5. The name of the individual you believe is the unidentifiable figure in the photo or any information you may have that could help us identify the individual
  6. Your level of certainty in the information you provided

Also Available on Social Media:

Follow us on social media—TwitterFacebook, and Instagram—to view newly released Mysteries of the Archives of American Art photos.  We welcome you to share our posts and photos with your network using the hashtag, #MysteriesOfTheArchivesOfAmericanArt. 

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