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A Vivian Maier Mystery Solved

Posted under Exhibitions by Guest author

As a young girl, Rev. Christine V. Hides loved to read and dreamed of solving mysteries. Now Hides has helped the Chicago History Museum solve one. After visiting the Vivian Maier: In Color exhibition, she identified the location where Vivian Maier took a photograph after recognizing two stained glass windows in an image.

Rev. Christine V. Hides stands by the windows at the Kenilworth Union Church that appear in Maier’s photograph. Photograph by Eric Miller, 2022.

Hides, who serves as associate minister at Kenilworth Union Church, noticed the detail when viewing a photograph that showed people in a church hall. “I was so excited when I saw this image,” Hides recalled, “because the windows in the photo looked similar to two stained glass windows in our church designed by renowned glass artist Henry Lee Willet.”

A color photograph looking into a church hall at Kenilworth Union Church, in Kenilworth, Illinois, c. 1974. One the left are 2 stained glass windows. A group of unidentified people are seated, facing different directions.seated.
People in a church hall, October 1974. The back wall appears different due to renovations to the church after the photograph was taken. CHM, ICHi-181323 / © The Estate of Vivian Maier

When she got home, Hides confirmed that the windows were the same. Then she visited CHM Images, our image portal, where she was able to find and identify more photographs taken at Kenilworth Union Church. Based on their content, it appears that Vivian Maier had visited the church during a rummage sale.

A woman wraps up a package for a customer at a rummage sale at Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, Illinois, c. 1974. A variety of nightgowns hang in the background. CHM, ICHi-181333 / © The Estate of Vivian Maier


A mirror at a rummage sale at Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, Illinois, circa 1974.
A mirror leaning against boxes of goods at a rummage sale at Kenilworth Union Church, Kenilworth, Illinois, c. 1974. CHM, ICHi-181320 / © The Estate of Vivian Maier

Thanks to Hides’s findings, Museum staff were able to update their metadata with the location of these sets of prints. “Vivian Maier focused her lens on people rather than the building,” Hides noted. “She captured ordinary moments that show how the church is woven into the fabric of the community.”

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