By Emily Beliveau, Digital Projects Assistant
In September, I posted a picture on the Museum’s Facebook page as an example of the WWII-era wedding photographs in the Henderson collection. What I didn’t know at the time is that the wedding dress in the picture was donated to the museum in 2007. Thanks to our Registrar, Patti Lamb, we’ve now made a match between the photo and dress.
Mr. and Mrs. J Wilson, April 1941. Photo by J. Gordon Henderson. A992.0003.560a. Rights: Public domain.
Miss Phyllis Mary Lawrence of Goderich and Corporal John Wilson (RAF) of Sheffield, England were married Wednesday, 16 April 1941 at St. George’s Anglican Church in Goderich. Corporal Wilson was stationed at No. 31 Air Navigation School, Port Albert. Phyllis was the first Goderich girl to marry a British airman from Port Albert.
Closeup of Mrs. Phyllis Wilson’s wedding dress, made by the bride’s mother Pearl (Morris) Lawrence. 2007.0023.003a. Image rights: Copyright Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol
So, how did we not know about this connection before? The short answer is that we had no easy way of knowing, short of recognizing the dress and the photo and putting it together.
The picture of the couple came into the museum collection in 1992, as one negative among thousands that make up the collection of J. Gordon Henderson’s professional photography career. The image was marked “Mr. and Mrs. J. Wilson,” but that information wasn’t added to our collections database until we started working on the Henderson Digitization Project (archival collections are often described at the fonds, series, or file level, rather than item-by-item).
The dress came into the collection in 2007, donated by the bride’s daughter Mary. Since then, the dress has been on exhibit at the museum twice and it was from one of these exhibits that Patti recognized the photograph. Although the museum (unknowingly) had the original negative in the archives, Mary brought the family copy of the Henderson wedding photo to accompany the dress while on exhibit, making the connection that Patti remembered.
Mrs. Wilson’s veil, photographed by the Huron County Museum (left) and shown in her wedding portrait (right).
Mrs. Wilson’s wedding bouquet fabric, photographed by the Huron County Museum (left) and shown in her wedding portrait (right).
Usually, we make these kinds of connections through our internal collections database. In this case, pulling up all the records with the last name Wilson would have indeed made the match, but doing that kind of cross-referencing for more than 850 Henderson images among over 50,000 catalogue records is not in our day-to-day time budget. Now that we know about it, though, we’ve linked the two records together in the database so that anyone searching in the future will know the photo and the dress are related.
In short, matchmaking isn’t just for weddings and romance, it works for museum collections, too.