A HUNDRED years ago in the Barrack Street building that now houses the Museum of Perth, Denis Dease photographed more than 600 soldiers before they sailed off to war.
After the studio closed, thousands of glass negatives were forgotten.
Museum chair Reece Harley says they remained undiscovered until “they were found in the basement of the fire station in Victoria Park in the 1980s,” just before the station was demolished.
“When photographic studios shut down they used to sell off their glass, because they were used as the glass in fire alarms,” Mr Harley says.
In 1999 the state library had a crack at identifying the soldiers in the photos, and the Museum of Perth has now delved deeper into archives to track down every last name it can, even cross referencing the badges visible in the shots to war records to try to pin down names.
Despite the effort, around 100 “unknown soldiers” remain.
Along with the portraits on display at the Museum of Perth, this exhibit will leave an ongoing resource: “We’re creating a searchable database of every soldier who had their photograph taken at the studio,” Mr Harley says, but it’s also hoping that putting it out to the public could spark citizen investigators to find out more about the unknown 100.
The Soldiers of Barrack Street is at the Museum of Perth on Grand Lane, April 20 to June 20, and the photos and records are online at http://www.thesoldiersofbarrackstreet.com
by DAVID BELL