Participatory Archives: Identifications from the Public

By Nicola Mantzaris and Laura Kintz, Photographic Metadata Catalogers

Members of the public engage with archival collections at the JFK Library in a variety of ways – from the physical experience of our museum spaces to the virtual exploration of our materials online. As photographic metadata catalogers, we often hear from this community. Many send emails to our reference archivists, identifying people and places in the photos from the White House Photographs collection. Others share their local or personal connections with colleagues in the Education Department during museum tours. Some even respond to our very own outreach projects and requests for help with unidentified persons.

As we continue to work on a growing queue of identifications from the public, we thought we would share a few examples of these invaluable contributions to the historical record:

JFKWHP-KN-C21984. White House Social Aide, United States Navy Lieutenant Ronald Scott Purvis (second from right), stands with three unidentified Social Aides in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Washington, D.C. May 22, 1962

Lieutenant Ronald Scott Purvis: A relative of Ronald Scott Purvis sent an email to the Research Department identifying him as the White House Social Aide who stands second from the right in this photograph. Lieutenant Commander Purvis was a naval aviator who was stationed in Antarctica in the late 1950s, and during this time, he became the first U.S. government official to parachute onto the Antarctic continent. To honor this achievement, the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names gave the name Purvis Peak to a mountain located in that continent’s Victoria Land region.

JFKWHP-KN-C25208. John F. Kennedy, Jr., watches members of the United States Marine Band, including accordionist Sergeant Major Charles Vincent Corrado, play in the East Wing Corridor of the White House, Washington, D.C., during a joint birthday party for him and his sister, Caroline Kennedy. November 27, 1962

Sergeant Major Charles Vincent Corrado: During an on-site visit, a Boston College High School student informed one of the Library’s Education Specialists that his grandfather appears in a photograph in one of the museum galleries. Sergeant Major Charles Vincent Corrado, a Boston native and Vietnam War veteran, plays the accordion in this photo. At the time of his death, he was the longest serving member of the United States Marine Band.

JFKWHP-KN-C21483. White House Executive Chef René Verdon and members of the White House kitchen staff pose with an assortment of cookies, arranged for a luncheon in honor of Alfons Gorbach, Chancellor of Austria. Left to right: Assistant Cook Raymond Jackson; Assistant Chef Julius Spessot; Executive Chef René Verdon; Assistant Cook Eserline Dewberry; Pastry Chef Ferdinand Louvat; unidentified. Kitchen, White House, Washington, D.C. May 3, 1962

Eserline Dewberry and Raymond Jackson: Adrian Miller, author of the book ‘The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas,’ helped identify Assistant Cooks Eserline Dewberry and Raymond Jackson in this photo. They are third from right and first from left, respectively. Miller had commented on our Flickr “Who am I?” outreach project  from a few years back.

Eserline Dewberry was a culinary professional at the White House during six administrations, including John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, James E. Carter, and Ronald Reagan. Raymond Jackson also worked during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential administrations.


  1. I enjoy these glimpses into the past. To some, it may seem a little “silly”, however I look at these from the historical point of view. All of the individuals in these pictures might remain in obscurity but for decency and integrity of those who took and/or preserved these images and identified those in them.

    We always hear of the presidents or Cabinet members; to see the people who go unheralded but are responsible for the decorum and functioning of the White House is exceptionally gratifying to me.

    Thank you.

  2. There was a dark haired military aide who was photographed in multiple photos with JFK and Jackie at dinners, reception lines (the gent stood in the background) etc… When the Apriil 1996 auction of Jacqueline Kennedy’s state was hosted, this man’s wife bought multiple jewelry lots as did her twin sister. (I believe this gentleman’s wife bought the oft-used, small gold evening purse of JBK-O.) The wife’s name was Nancy Pillsbury and she lived in the St. Louis, Mo. area. Perhaps th gentlemane would be able to provide more info on the names of some of the unknown military people in your ‘mystery’ photographs.

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