The visitors vary, from people looking to recover their own baby photos, to their children or grandchildren.
Not long ago, someone found his baby negative among the 5,000 or so stored in the basement of Bay Shore Historical Society’s Gibson-Mack-Holt House on Maple Avenue.
He had tears in his eyes.
“It cleared up a myriad of family questions,” said Historical Society president Barry Dlouhy. “There was a parentage question, specifically, and finding the negative clarified who is mother was.”
It’s been 15 years since the negatives — all taken at Southside Hospital between 1956 and 1968 — were donated to the Historical Society.
There is also a handful of baby photos from as far back as 1950.
The photos were taken by Nora Kolczynski of Bay Shore Photo, and the negatives were donated by her daughter, Noreen Hoffmeier, after the business closed, Dlouhy said, referencing a brief that had been published in The Islip Bulletin.
“She would take the pictures when the babies were born, and then the parents, of course, had the opportunity to buy a little package from her,” he explained.
The Bay Shore Historical Society volunteers consider themselves caretakers of the negatives, not owners.
The rightful owners are the subjects of the photos and their relatives.
And they’re welcome to take their negative home.
“Some people come in here, and it’s a real treasure find,” Dlouhy said. “I’d say at least 1,000 have been taken since we’ve been keeping them here.”
The Bay Shore Historical Society’s Gibson Mack Holt House is located at 22 Maple Avenue, one block south of Main Street. It’s open Tuesdays and Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.