Blog, Inside the Museum

A Vivian Maier Mystery Solved

Dec 13 2022

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.

A color photograph of a white woman in a clerical collar and cream blazer standing on the right side of the image with 2 stained-glass windows, one on the left, one in the middle.
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.”

Color photograph of a sun-lit room with 2, stained-glass windows with tapered tops. There are chairs and tables in the room, with 7 seated people. A woman in the foreground bends over with her back to the camera to write something on a piece of paper on a table.
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. [This reference image may be cropped or require color correction and/or reorientation to reflect the original image.]
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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