A stack of photographic proofs was presented to Stephen B. Jareckie in 2003. "They were grouped together like a deck of cards," Mr. Jareckie said.
Flipping through the individual images and knowing something of their origin, Mr. Jareckie said, "I knew we had something, but what exactly they were and how we were all going to tie it together, that was going to take some detective work."
After months of documenting the details, confirming dates and locations, the mystery has been solved.
The result - the Fitchburg Art Museum is once again presenting never-before-exhibited photographs by American master Ansel Adams. The museum exhibited other Adams photos in 2003.
The opening reception for "Ansel Adams in the East: Cruising the Inland Waterway in 1940" was held yesterday at the museum on Merriam Parkway. The exhibition will run through June 3. Mr. Jareckie is the curator of the exhibition.
The photographs were taken by Adams and David Hunter McAlpin during a cruise on the Inland Waterway, also known as the Intracoastal Waterway, in November 1940. The exhibition contains more than four dozen 5-inch proofs, enlarged from 2-1/4-inch negatives.
"This was basically a vacation trip for these men," Mr. Jareckie said. "How about having Ansel Adams take your vacation photographs?"
Mr. Jareckie said the exhibit includes photographs taken by both men. "Where we could identify who took what, we have done so." Some of the photographs could not be identified and are labeled as such.
According to Mr. Jareckie's research, in October 1940, Adams traveled east from his home in Yosemite National Park to New York City at the request of McAlpin, a friend. McAlpin wanted Adams to advise him and Beaumont Newhall in setting up the new department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art.
"It took McAlpin, who was among the first to recognize photography as a valid art form, to convince MOMA to start this new department," Mr. Jareckie said.
"I think this trip came about because they needed a break from all of this," Mr. Jareckie said. "They had completed the first phase of their work at MOMA. McAlpin had a friend, John Stagg, who owned a yacht; arrangements were made and off they went."
Mr. Jareckie said the two men boarded the Billy Bones II, a 42-foot schooner, at Norfolk, Va., to sail south on inland waters to Savannah after the hurricane season. The exhibition traces the 580-mile cruise.
Through his research, Mr. Jareckie discovered that Stagg, a 26-year old yachtsman, was the cook for the cruise. The fourth member of the party was first mate Winfield "Scotty" Scott.
The yachting party left Norfolk on Nov. 20, 1940, and spent Nov. 21 in the Dismal Swamp Canal, where they celebrated Thanksgiving, which included a turkey cooked in the ship's galley.