A mystery surrounding a historical photo album has finally been solved and returned to its rightful owner after nearly a decade of lying dormant.

Dropped off at the original Independence Heritage Museum location in 2014 after the death of the photo album’s owner, Mona Barker (1925-2012), it soon faded into the background of the museum’s basement, waiting to be rediscovered. Just recently, the album containing photos of precious family memories, adventurous global trips, and significant life milestones was reunited with Barker’s granddaughter, Marci Newkirk, in Lacey, Washington.

Vickie McCubbin, Chair of the Heritage Museum Advisory Board, was the individual who rediscovered the album and made the trek up North to return it.

“For years, everybody was saying, ‘why do we have these four boxes?’ The collection didn’t have anything Independence-related,” said McCubbin.

While Mona Barker and her husband Morris were local to the Independence area—owning the “Out of the Blue” local antique store and Bed & Breakfast—there didn’t appear to be a single record of their time in the city. But that didn’t stop Vickie from pursuing the mystery album further.

After a lively discussion during one of the Advisory Board meetings, the decision was made to try and find a living member of the Morris family who might be interested in the album’s contents. As a result, McCubbin scoured the internet in hopes of finding obituaries for both Mona and Morris.

Once McCubbin found Morris’s obituary, she reviewed the surviving family members listed in the article. From this search, McCubbin was able to track down one of their granddaughters named Marci.

After reaching out and corresponding with Marci, McCubbin traveled nearly 3 hours to Washington to deliver the photo album. Through Vickie’s efforts, a long-lost family treasure was found, one whose value was displayed through the moments captured on film.

When Marci was shown the first photo, one featuring her grandfather and grandmother, she couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion. Additionally, Marci’s father, also named Morris, recently passed away. Consequently, looking at never-before-seen photos of him certainly brought a bittersweet flavor to the moment.

“It was so incredible,” said McCubbin. “We both got very teary-eyed.”

While history is often thought of as a collection of the past, it can also serve as a living reminder of the progress made and where we long to go.

The Independence Heritage Museum, as of this writing, is set to reopen its doors in a new location on April 30, 2022. Inside, tourists and residents alike will find a grand multitude of artifacts and exhibits that not only tells the story of Oregon’s first pioneers, but also the individuals and communities who first settled in this region such as the Kalapuya tribe. In addition, at the grand opening, there will be a station where patrons can bring forth their own local artifacts and stories and the museum will conduct research on them. This will hopefully spark many more triumphant stories like Marci’s.

“Part of the mission of a museum is to preserve stuff,” said McCubbin. “But also, it’s to reconnect people—in an individual way.”

Although we exist in an age of Zoom meetings, 24-hour news, and ever-evolving technology, the art of human connection, is still the most advanced method for our society’s preservation.

Two women holding historical photo album