Today I had the chance to look over a collection of anonymous stereographs from a wide-ranging African expedition, 1906-1911, with the goal of writing a finding aid. I am eager to find out, if possible, who wrote the very consistent captions on these photos, most of which are of locations and local people. My only clues are: some of the captions are initialed: VSK, 1911; the person misspelled the word “ant” to read “aunt,” and I wonder if s/he is not a native English speaker; and most importantly there is a photo of Carl Akeley posing with a giraffe head, leading me to wonder if this collection is documentation of his African expedition. Diane led me to a book entitled African Obsession: The life and legacy of Carl Akeley, by Penelope Bodry-Sanders. Skimming the book, I was able to find quite a number of the locations cited in the stereographs, but not a name to match my initials. I am happy to have found a possible link, if not to the collector, then to Akeley’s expedition. It is a great luxury to be able to spend some time in this kind of research.

In addition, there is one photo captioned Duke Abruzzi’s caravan. I found that The Duke d’Abruzzi was a known mountaineer around the turn of the 20th century. One gets a sense of these expeditions linking up or crossing paths as they moved through the continent.

However, the most heart-rending find of the day was a group of images from the Kisubi Mission Station in Uganda devoted to the care of people in the final stages of “sleeping sickness.” One is captioned “a man gone dangerous “ whose “foot is put through a log” presumably to hinder his movements should he become violent. The photo shows that his foot is padded from the roughness of the log, and he has ropes to help him lift it to get around. I am struck by the combined brutality of the shackling and the consideration of protecting his foot from damage and maintaining his mobility.

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