Noelle Rose was perusing a Goodwill shop near Atlanta, Georgia, when she came across a few boxes that opened up a piece of Ann Arbor history.
“They were slide boxes, and when I opened them up, they were nearly full,” she said. “And they were in in really good condition. The person who took them took care of them.”
Rose, a graphic designer who lives in Georgia, bought the lot for $8.50 and brought them home to do some investigation. She saw a number of scenes from road trips and vacations, but one location stood out as possibly being a more permanent home.
“I knew that they definitely lived in Ann Arbor because there were a lot of pictures of the University of Michigan,” she said. “But they were all over the place and most recently I think they’re living here in Georgia which is why I found the slides here.”
William T. “Bill” Buchanan did attend the University of Michigan, and bought his first high-quality camera in the early 1950s to take close-ups of people’s mouths.
“He was an oral surgeon so he wanted to be able to photograph his patients and then put together presentations,” said Buchanan’s son, William Brookwell “Brook” Buchanan.
The elder Buchanan quickly became an avid amateur photographer, documenting his life and his family as they moved from Ann Arbor across the country and eventually settled in Georgia.
“He always used a great camera, a top-class lens series and he always had the best film he could find,” Brook said.
“Before he would take a shot he would always use a light meter and everything. If he wanted to take a picture it was going to be a five-minute event.”
Bill Buchanan, a naturalized Canadian citizen, went to college in Washington D.C. and dental school at the Atlanta Southern Dental College, which is now part of Emory University. After practicing dentistry for a few years, he decided he wanted to join the relatively new field of oral surgery.
“At that time, the University of Michigan was the only school in the country that had a formalized residency program in oral surgery,” Brook Buchanan said. “That’s how we ended up in Ann Arbor for a couple years. But I was so young when we were there that I don’t even really remember it.”
The family moved to California and Virginia before ending up back in Georgia where Brook currently lives with his wife Deborah.
Noelle started trying to track down the family by posting the pictures online, including in the Ann Arbor subsection of the Internet hive-mind site reddit. Posters there encouraged her to contact U-M’s Bentley Historical Library to see if they could provide some context.
“Most of those seem to be the staff photos from the university hospital and there’s an entire row of just a Michigras parade that I was able to figure out was from 1954,” she said.
“Then a lot of them are portraits of the staff. It seems like he went around and just took pictures of a bunch of them.”
The library helped Rose date the photos and she was able to figure out Bill Buchanan’s full name. Her search dead-ended when she found out the oral surgeon had died in 1997.
The Ann Arbor News was able to contact Brook Buchanan, the subject of many of the photes, at his home in Newnan, Georgia. Brook said he was surprised that someone had taken the time to find out the photographs belonged to his family.
He said the family recently donated the boxes of slides after his stepmother died.
“We had to get rid of a whole lot of stuff,” Buchanan said. “My father died in 1997 and when he passed they kept anything and everything. So we had looked at those and seen them and decided to give them to the Goodwill.”
Brook said the donation was intentional and he has no desire to be reunited with the slides.
“I was adopted at birth, so I guess I was never really into all of that family history stuff,” he said. “But it’s nice to know that someone out there is interested in them.”