Historical research question


I carry out historical research and was wondering if statistical analysis of some kind might be a useful means to shed some light on interpreting certain aspects of a series of photographs from the 1920s. I won't expand yet though because I wanted to check first whether it was OK to essentially just turn up here with a one off question. Or if that comes across as a bit of a liberty.

Thanks for reading.


No cake for spunky
It depends on what historical research you are doing. We don't care how many post you make, but its impossible to answer a question with no detail. :)
Apologies for the delay.

All of the 14 images are of animals in an enclosure. They're not human so facial recognition is out as it's necessarily far too objective. The controversy is over how many separate subjects were photographed, and what dates these images were taken over. I believe that in my area only primary or very well supported and corroborated secondary evidence is all that should be used, that tells us to look for 5 of these animals. Others though estimate far higher numbers based on anecdotal accounts. I believe that our photographic record, poor as it is, is explainable purely in terms of individuals documented in contemporary sources. What I'd like to know if there's anything in the following that might count as evidence.

We have some archival records for these animals which I'll outline. All dates are rounded up to the beginning of the month they entered. The total time of use for the enclosure, which housed only one species, is 81 months between July 1913 and April 1920.

A, arrived June 1913, but not is recorded in the enclosure until February 1914, though it would have entered before this. last definitely referred to in February 1924. Known to have had a serious injury to one of its injured legs. Given the first and last reference to this animal's presence in the enclosure are from the same statement it's hard to estimate the length of time it was displayed there. But it's probably not likely it was placed there later than August, so on that basis; estimated time in the enclosure 6/81 months, 7.4%.

B, entered enclosure July 1913, last definitely referred to also in February 1914. No recorded distinguishing features. This is the first entry into the enclosure. Estimated time in the enclosure (ending on last reference) is 7/81 months, 8.6%

C, acquired February 1914 but not placed directly into the enclosure, it is probable though it had been by 1st January 1915. Known to have had one of her fore-paws amputated. Death reported April 1918. Estimated time in the enclosure 39/81 months, 48.1%

D, arrived with C but wouldn't have entered the enclosure immediately either, though it's very probable he was placed there in August 1915. No distinguishing features. Estimated time in enclosure 56/81 months 62.9%

E, Arrived July 1914, probably entered the enclosure immediately. Distinguishing feature in this case is pregnancy. This is a bit of a funny one but without going into unnecessary detail this equates to a distended abdomen which never really went back to normal. Estimated time in enclosure, ending with the last recorded reference to her presence, 47/81 months, 58%.

The photos appear to fall into three distinct groups by their subjects. First, is a single image of two subjects. One of which is practically a silhouette, the other though has partially amputated hind-foot. This feature is never visible again, but obviously not all the feet of all the subjects is always visible.

Second, we have 8 images showing 3 subjects together. In one they're so close together that no identifiable features are visible. In the remaining 7, one of the subjects has a missing fore-paw. In 5 of these 7 images we have a second subject with a saggy abdomen. Of the remaining two images the abdomens of one and both the remaining subjects is not visible. The third subject is entirely nondescript in all of the images.

One of these images, showing both a subject with an amputated fore-leg, and another with a distended abdomen can be dated to April 1917, and has an accompanying comment confirming these were the only three present.

Third, we have 5 single subject images (though the foot of a second subject is visible in one). Four show a subject with with a sagging abdomen. One of these is date-able to June 1918, another is potentially date able to either January 1917 or 1918. The remaining image is a head on shot where the abdomen is not visible.

All of the 14 photos were taken by visitors, who appear to have arrived completely at random, and no photographer is known to have taken more than one photo. But all known images are by scientists, journalists, or professional photographers. No amateur snap has ever been recovered, and most images have been published or archived hence their survival. As far as I can see there’s a significance there but I’d have no idea how to quantify it. I'd assume though that the chances of any of the photos actually being taken in any one month is 1/81? Which I think is the same as it being an even chance, so which should suggest a pretty even distribution. To my lay-idiot mind this looks like what we do see.

One image 7% of the total shows an amputated hind-foot, the only limb injury (aside from C) is recorded in A, whose presence is estimated as 7.4% of the total period of captivity. If the injured animal is A, the second subject has to be B. I'm not sure what to say about B, there's no way to tell if they appear again or not, but if they don't their estimated period of captivity accounts for 8.6% of the total period, and 7% of the images.

50% of the images show an animal with an amputated fore-paw, a feature known in C who was present for 48.1% of the time.

64.2% of the images show a distended abdomen, a feature only explainable as appearing in E, present 58% of the time.

Plus there's an overlap in the images between a missing paw and saggy abdomen in 5 images, 35%, and a likely overlap of C and E, of 39/81 months, 48.1%.

So, is this suggestive, or am I way out? I realise I might be being very naive, I don't know anything about statistics, calculating probability, or anything beyond very basic maths. Is there anything further that could be done?
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Active Member
Which photos? Nothing got attached... Aside from that, extensive attachments are bad style. You are asking for an advice, not for somebody to look deeply into your work and perform formal consulting... Also, please make your textual description shorter, straight to the point. Thank you.
Which photos? Nothing got attached... Aside from that, extensive attachments are bad style. You are asking for an advice, not for somebody to look deeply into your work and perform formal consulting... Also, please make your textual description shorter, straight to the point. Thank you.
Yes, as I said in my first post I'm looking for advice as to whether any form of statistical analysis might be useful. I don't think my first post was misleading in any way.

The photographs are not attached, nor can they be as many of them are privately owned and I only have permission to use them under specific circumstances, which is why I tried to describe their salient points as best I could. As a result I think as far as my abilities go, that's as short as I can make it.

But thank you very much for your time anyway.