The Chilliwack Military Museum needs help to identify thousands of photos.
Darren Kennedy, who has been helping the organization in an IT role since 2019, recently started loading digital images onto the organization’s website at cfbchilliwack.com.
Among those are approximately 25,000 pictures that have been languishing in an internet archive for years.
“I’d say 98 per cent of them have nothing tied to the photo. It’s just a photo and you’re left wondering, ‘What is this?’” Kennedy said. “There are some where I go, ‘Wow! Holy Smokes, look at that photo.’ It’ll say 1947 on there, so just after the war, but who are these people?
“I don’t have a clue. Let’s help identify what these photos are.”
The pictures show scenes from Chilliwack’s rich armed forces history, dating back decades to the creation of Camp Chilliwack in 1942, through to 1968 when it was renamed Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Chilliwack and up to its closure in 1997.
Kennedy created an email group to help put names to faces and places. He sends out three or four photos a day, and he’s had modest success. In the three-or-so weeks he’s been at it, Kennedy describes the results as “hit and miss.”
To truly make a dent in it, he needs more eyeballs on the job.
“Maybe someone who lives here and they’re retired, they see a pic and they can say, ‘That’s my father or my grandfather,’” Kennedy said. “I want the email group to grow and I want the community involved to identify help me identify these pictures.”
As he talks, he looks at a photo in front of him showing several men in uniform. It was successfully identified as members of the Army Combat Divers team, hanging out on the shore of Cultus Lake. Kennedy estimates that four out of every 10 photos he sends out rings a bell with someone, but a 40 per cent success rate would still leave 15,000 pics unidentified.
“I am afraid that we are going to lose this legacy history that was so dear to the community,” he said.
The Chilliwack Military Museum helps with family histories, doing research for Canadian veterans all the way back to the First Boer War (1880-81).
They’ve had people from as far away as Ireland contacting them for assistance and photos help a lot.
“For me, it’s like putting together a puzzle,” Kennedy added. “It’s filling those pieces in, and it’s a little feeling of elation when you figure out who someone is and you can add that photo to the archive.”
To join Kennedy’s email group, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 778-839-4972.
For more on the Chilliwack Military Museum, visit cfbchilliwack.com or drop by in person Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. each day.