The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

November 5, 2011

Linking owners with storm-strewn photos slow process

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Nearly 3,000 photos scattered by the May 22 tornado have been returned to their owners to date, but an estimated 20,000 haven’t yet found a home.

Of those, many have been claimed via the Internet, but their owners aren’t able to get to Carthage to the Lost Photos of Joplin repository to claim them.

“They’re without a car, or maybe trying to rebuild their lives right now,” said Angela Walters, a Pryor, Okla., resident who founded the project as a Facebook page in the days following the tornado.

So Walters and her team of volunteer archivists from First Baptist Church in Carthage will set up shop in the conference room at the Joplin Public Library, 300 S. Main, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

“If you have seen your photos on Facebook and claimed them, you can come to the library that day to get them,” Walters said.

Her team also is in the process of printing out copies of several hundred of photos yet to be claimed, which will be on display that day in three-ring binders.

“We’re hoping that will make it easy for people who might not have Internet access or aren’t connected with Facebook to come in, sit down and look through them,” she said.

If a connection is made, Walters will document the photo and the owner and will reunite them later, as she isn’t able to bring all 20,000 unclaimed photographs to the library.

Walters said the project has netted many success stories, including last week the return of 1,500 photos to one family.

“I started recognizing faces as I saw the same ones recurring in photos throughout our archives, so I knew they belonged together,” Walters said. “The granddaughter came to pick them up, and we learned her mom and aunt, who were featured in many of the photographs, had passed away. We knew then that it was significant for the family to get these back.”

The archivists likely will finish scanning all of the found photos sometime in the next two weeks, Walter predicted.

“We have about 200 or 300 more to scan, and then it’s a matter of linking them to the right owners,” she said. “We’re hoping the day at the library will be a good start.”

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