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Pictures of old houses, landscapes have stories to tell

  • School or library gathering in Sonoma County, undated, photographer unknown. One of the black and white pictures with sparse informatino that Sonoma State University is hoping to enlist the help of the entire community in identifying as part of the “SSU Mystery Photo” series that started running in September in the ‘ARTS’ blog on The Press Democrat website. 11.2010 Photo from SSU.

Most of the time, research librarians don't get a lot of fan mail. It tends to be a rather quiet, behind-the-scenes sort of job.

But when Lynn Prime, Digital Projects Librarian at Sonoma State University, took on the task of digitally storing a collection of 850 photographs taken throughout Sonoma County in the 1970s, she soon realized she needed help.

Many of the black and white pictures came to her with sparse information. So she approached The Press Democrat, hoping to enlist the community's help in identifying the pictures and collecting background details.

Mystery Photos From SSU's Archives


The "SSU Mystery Photo" series started running in September in the newspaper's online ARTS blog, arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. So far, a dozen photos have been posted, along with a public plea for information about the churches, houses and barns pictured in them.

Now Prime is getting more e-mails, phone calls and website visits than ever before. Traffic on the project's Internet site, northbaydigital.sonoma.edu, has drastically increased.

"The hits on our home page were almost twice as many as usual during October," she said.

"Most of my time is spent in the background, working with the collections, so to have response and reaction from people is really a kick."

One of the first Web watchers to respond was Karl Mortenson of Santa Rosa, a campus police officer at Sonoma State University.

The photograph of an old building in the town of Bodega caught his eye because he had lived nearby from 1975 to 1996, and passed the building every day during the '90s.

"This building was used in a TV show sometime in the mid-1990s, and bore the name &‘Kingman's Ferry' for several years," Mortenson reported.

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