Twitter wants you to help find the people taken in these beautiful black-and-white photos from Japan’s past.

New Zealander Twitter user @irisshackleton got a surprise when she opened up a beautiful antique Japanese sewing box she had bought and discovered some old, black-and-white photographs inside. Determined to return them to family members, @irisshackleton has put on her sleuth’s hat and requested outside assistance.

The shop in Christchurch where the piece was purchased no longer exists, and so after reaching that dead end, @irisshackleton decided to enlist other Twitter users’ help in hunting down the descendants of the mystery man, woman and child in the photographs.

People have been quick to offer their help by posting the images to their Facebook pages or retweeting the message, and Twitter user @Snfm23 offered to send the story to Japanese television news stations, with others sending the information to Japanese-language newspapers. With over 34,000 retweets at time of writing, and even having been featured on Japanese television, the story has started to spread across Japanese social media.

▼ The antique Japanese sewing box that contained the photographs

Since neither the photographs nor the box have any writing or marks from which to guess the provenance, Twitter users have tried to help out by deducing the location and time-frame the photos were likely taken in. Several have suggested that the style of clothing suggested the late Meiji or early Taisho periods (late nineteenth century through to the early twentieth century). Others speculate that the child’s toy might give some clue as to the era or region.

▼ The photos show a man, a woman, and a child but have no clues as to their identities.

Twitter user @suwadaisuke translated the news into Japanese to help spread the word.

Before the Internet came along, it was said that there were only six degrees of separation between any two people in the world. With social media like Twitter and Facebook, that number may have gotten even smaller, so while the chances of finding relatives of the family in the photographs (a family who would have to be able to recognise their grandparents or possibly great-grandparents) are understandably slim, there’s always a chance, so if you or someone you know has any clues, let your voice be heard. It also shows the role the Internet can play in allowing people to help out a stranger or get two people together. When it isn’t filling our computer screens with cats, that is.

Source, images: Twitter/irisshackleton