Have you or your family ever performed in the historic local production of the American Passion Play? The Dr. JoAnn Rayfield Archives has made some of the production’s photographs available online and needs your help in identifying dates and cast members.

First held in the newly constructed Scottish Rite Temple (now called the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts) in 1923, the American Passion Play has been performed for over 90 years by several generations of Bloomington families. The photographs are part of the larger Ken-Way Studio Photograph Collection, which was transferred to University Archives in 2011. The collection holds photographic prints and negatives that document the history of nationally known companies, celebrities, local and national politicians, and Midwestern life and culture from the late 1890s to the 1990s in Central Illinois.

Due to the size of the collection, it has largely remained unprocessed. However, in 2015, Milner Library dedicated resources to help digitize portions of the collection and bring them to a wider audience. Many of the images in the collection, particularly of the Passion Play, have little to no information attached. That’s where we need your help!

Approximately 66 images have been added to Milner Library’s transcription website, Decipher History. Earlier this year, the papers of Illinois State’s first president, Charles Hovey, were posted in Decipher History and have been partially transcribed with help from the community. We’re asking for your help again, this time to date images and to identify individuals in the photographs. As we gather information on these images, we’ll add more production photographs for the community to identify. With this information, we’ll eventually be able to create a searchable database for the Passion Play images.

Help identify your history! If you know the individuals in the photographs or know when the photograph was taken, let us know by adding your comments in the photograph’s transcription box.