February 16, 2011

An Interview with Maureen Taylor


Maureen Taylor, known to many as the “Photo Detective,” has loved photography and historical images since she was a young child.  She is forever fascinated with the topic and her work has been internationally recognized.

Maureen will be making two presentations at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC).  Her first presentation with David L. Mishkin is a workshop on Friday, April 8th from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. entitled Preserving Family Photographs (F-215)

Her next presentation, The Last Muster:  Photographs and Stories from the American Revolution, (S324) will occur on Saturday, April 9th at 1:45 p.m.

As an “Official NERGC Blogger,” I interviewed Maureen Taylor to ask about her initial interest in daguerreotypes; her ongoing passion in working to find the history behind the photos she finds or that are given to her; and how she became internationally known as an expert in her field.
 

Your book The Last Muster:  Photographs and Stories from the American Revolution is an interesting reflection of the work you have been doing, in this case with daguerreotypes of the American Revolution. Your research’s intersection with genealogy and history is a real strength. What drove you to research the history of the photos you found? What started you on the journey of identifying these old daguerreotypes, and when?
 
I saw my first daguerreotype way back in 1978 at the Rhode Island Historical Society.  I couldn’t believe how gorgeous and realistic the image was.   At a NERGC conference held at Cape Cod, an attendee showed me a photo of his Loyalist ancestor.  I was hooked and immediately thought, “If he has one then there could be more.”  The Last Muster contains 70 images of men and women who lived during the American Revolution.  I’m now working on a volume two!

Tell us about the most difficult “hunt” you’ve ever done. Where did the photo or photos come from and what made the research difficult?

I maintain a “Cold Case file” of images.  While I can date the images and often tell the story of them there are sometimes persistent mysteries.  Not all of our everyday history makes it into history books, there are details that are lost to us today.   The cold cases usually involve an odd prop or piece of clothing.

I understand that you receive a lot of private work from individuals seeking help in identifying people in old family photographs. Who are your typical clients? How does your work with their photographs begin? 

My typical client is a family historian who just inherited a group of photos and doesn’t know how to care for them and has a few unsolved picture mysteries.   My first step is to interview them about the history of that collection
 
In your book Preserving Your Family Photographs, you offer excellent advice on the proper storage of family photographs--beginning with “Preservation Facts,” covering where not to store photographs, and how to best store and protect them.

 For those readers who don’t have a lot of old photographs and may not feel their photographs are at risk, what advice would you give them? Is there a single most common pitfall that you wish everyone could avoid?
 
Here in New England the changing seasons offer the greatest risk to our pictures. Try to store them in an area of your house that doesn’t experience fluctuations of temperature and humidity.  An interior closet is the best place.  

Also…use the right pencil to write on the back of your pictures. A soft lead graphite pencil is best for heritage images while a Zig marker ( NOT a Sharpie) works on resin coated twentieth century images.
 
At your lecture at the Marblehead Museum and Historical Society last week you mentioned how grateful you were that Kent State published your collection of photographs that reflect a diversity, or cross-section, of those who served in the Revolutionary War. Your searches for people of various races, classes, and geographies have taken you all over the country.

Were there any particular challenges to this task, or any experiences in the process that you particularly enjoyed?

The Last Muster took about 8 years to pull together.  In the first years of the project, I spent a lot of time reassuring folks that these images could exist in their family collection. I’ve looked all over the place for pictures.   I love finding new images for the next phase of the project!  It’s the thrill of the hunt and then the discovery.

During your presentation in Marblehead, as well as in this interview, you mentioned that a second volume of The Last Muster:  Photographs and Stories from the American Revolution is forthcoming.  Is it possible to tell our readers when they can expect to look for this second volume?

I don’t have a publication date, but I already have a good number of images.  I’m hoping to finish it in the next few years.   I’m still looking for images, so if anyone thinks they have a photo that fits the criteria on my website, please send me a note.  I’d love to hear from them!



Early registration is required for anyone planning to attend Maureen's first presentation/workshop with David L. Mishkin on Friday, April 8th from 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.  

Preserving Family Photographs F-215 requires pre-registration.   Click here to register. 

Maureen’s address:

Maureen Taylor
The Photo Detective
P.O. Box 283
Westwood, MA 02090


Watch Maureen solve cases on Vimeo.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Sign up for Maureen's free email newsletter to receive tips, articles and
more at Photo Detective.

The list of speakers who will be at NERGC 2011 can be found at:

More information about Maureen Taylor can be found at:


© Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Lucie's Legacy
2011 - Present

8 comments:

Heather Rojo said...

Very nice interview! It is great that you could meet her "in person" instead of via email.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Heather.

Actually I went to her lecture a week ago last Sunday so I could meet her, purchase her books etc. However, the interview was done via email. A bit delayed since she was leaving for RootsTech first.

Lucie

Sarah said...

Great interview! Her work is so interesting.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Sarah!

It has been so interesting to attend one of her lectures and to then interview her. Maureen does fantastic work and I intend to attend more of her presentations.

Lucie

Barbara Poole said...

Very nice Lucie, and I can tell that you did your homework first. Kudos for you.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Thank you Barbara.

I really enjoyed doing the interview with Maureen.

Lucie

Gerry S. said...

Interesting interview Lucie. I'm looking forward to some of Maureen's presentations this year also.

Lucie LeBlanc Consentino said...

Hi Gerry,

You will really enjoy Maureen's presentations. She is so interesting and does such amazing work.

Lucie