Winter 2023

We need your help! Below are images from our digital archive that are missing important details. See if you can help us fill in some of the gaps.  

updated mysteries!

DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES is a multi-week series of mysteries, all centered around a common theme. If you suggest an answer, please share with us how you solved the mystery. Include your name, and we’ll give you credit on the record in the DIG archives.  To keep up to date with all DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES, follow us on Instagram at @digmemphishistory

DIG MEMPHIS MYSTERIES is back for a winter season of mysteries! As we’ve done before, we’ll be highlighting images from a single collection: The Robert Lanier Collection. Robert Lanier has a robust history of involvement in civic organizations in Memphis – he was a founding member of the Lawyers’ Journal Club of Memphis, a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission, and a founding member of Memphis Heritage, Inc. He’s also the author of several books about Memphis history.  

The photographs Lanier has donated are primarily concerned with documenting Memphis’ streets and urban and public spaces. As we attempt to add geographic coordinates and other geographic details to the photographs found in the collection, we often

come across images without any identifying information – and that’s when we need your help! Each week, we’ll be sharing one photograph from the collection to see if you can help us pinpoint where the photographer was standing when the photograph was snapped. 


“Woman on Beale”. Robert Lanier Collection, DIG MEMPHIS (Digital Identifier RLC204)

This week’s mystery will be the final one in our Winter series. We’ll be taking a break to process all of the submissions and update archival records, but first, one final photograph from the Robert Lanier Collection.

The description accompanying this photograph reads, “A photo of a woman standing in the street outside a pool hall on Beale Street.” The date is 1955. Can you help us locate this pool hall? What Beale Street address is this? If you can figure it out, let us know in the comments box!


“Midtown houses”. Robert Lanier Collection, DIG MEMPHIS (Digital Identifier RLC023)

This week’s mystery brings us another stretch of unlabeled houses in Memphis – this time in Midtown. The title given to this image is, “Midtown houses”, and then only description is, “Houses line a residential street in Midtown.”

This time we’ve got a couple of mysteries that need solving. First, where was the photographer standing when this photograph was taken? And second, what time frame (year or decade) was this? If you can help us by providing any additional details for the archival record, please let us know!


“Memphis houses”. Robert Lanier Collection, DIG MEMPHIS (Digital ID: RLC253)

The above image titled, “Memphis houses”, was taken November 2, 1969. We know the date, but we do not know the location. The description attached to the photograph states, “A photo of a row of houses, possibly taken on Vance Avenue. A café is on the left.”

Perhaps the café is a clue to locating this stretch of Memphis houses. Do you recognize this street or any of these homes? If so, please let us know in the comments box!


“Building near Union”. Robert Lanier Collection, DIG MEMPHIS (Digital ID: RLC250)

The title given to this photograph in our archive is “Building near Union”, but the description indicates that information is not conclusive. All we know is that it’s “a photo featuring construction around an apartment house or hotel, possibly on Union Avenue.”

Is this construction or a demolition? Is this building located on Union or perhaps a nearby street? If you know, please let us know in the comments box! 


“White house”. Robert Lanier Collection, DIG MEMPHIS (Digital ID: RLC149)

This week’s mystery photograph is another from our Robert Lanier Collection. Unlike many of our previous mysteries, this photo was taken fairly recently. The date on the image is May 20, 2008. The description only states, “A photo of the front of a white house.  The light pole has the number 916 on it.” 

We’re not sure what neighborhood this is or the street where this house is/was located. Can you help? If you recognize this house and can provide more details about where it is located, let us know in the comments box! 


“Memphis house”. Robert Lanier Collection, DIG MEMPHIS (Digital ID: RLC240)

The first photo for today’s Monday Mystery is simply titled, “Memphis house”. The accompanying data indicates the photograph was taken on February 11, 1969. When the photo was first digitized, the description included stated, “a photo of a historic Memphis house, possibly on Vance Avenue.” 

Is this Vance Avenue? Do you recognize this house? If so, please let us know! We’re interested in learning where this home was located and where the photographer was standing when the image was captured. Let us know your thoughts in the comments box! 

Explore more mysteries:


Here are some resources that can help with your search.

City Directories 1849-1943 – Shelby County Registrar (link)

Commercial Appeal Archives 1894-Today – ProQuest (link)

Historic Shelby County – Aerial Maps (link)

Maps of Memphis (link)

Vehicle Registration Plates of TN – Wikipedia (link)