‘Recording the county’: the Warwickshire Photographic Survey and the Library of Birmingham

George Bragg’s Wine Cellars below the old Theatre Royal, New Street, Birmingham. Photographed by George Whitehouse in 1901.

The move of our collections to the new Library of Birmingham has been taking place for several weeks. One of our visual archives that will be relocated to temperature controlled storage is the Warwickshire Photographic Survey.

Since 2010 I have been working on a project to digitise the 30,000 plus photos in the collection. Assisted by the hard work of colleagues and volunteers we have achieved the following outputs:

  • 18,000+ digital images created
  • Catalogue descriptions for most of core Survey (8000+ items)
  • Copyright resolved for key photographers and organisations

With opening day imminent, work on the project has temporarily halted as we get ready to re-open in September. After this, resources currently in the CALM cataloguing system will be edited and eventually made available on-line.

Visit of Duke Tsai Tse and members of the Chinese Special Commission to the Metropolitan Railway Carriage Works. Photographed, by John Benjamin Stone on 14 May 1906.

Many of the catalogue entries will have image files attached, the descriptions providing more detailed information about the Survey as both an active photographic society (c1890 -1955) and a library collection (c1892 – present). A Digital Asset Management System is being developed to manage all of the digital content from the collection for future exhibitions and web resources.

Working on a collection this large and complex has been challenging but also enjoyable and rewarding. A cursory glance at the photos provides a window into the past, showing the sometimes radical changes the region experienced over the last century. From huge country houses to back-to-back housing – society worthies to market traders – the sheer variety of visual evidence is staggering. The Warwickshire Photographic Survey has a social-historical as well as topographical interest with all walks of life represented to varying degrees across the collection.

The page includes a few personal favourites to provide a snapshot of the rich variety of material in this fascinating resource.

Michael Hunkin, Archivist

Mr Veasey and his family at ‘The Hermitage’ at Wolvey Heath, Warwickshire prior to eviction, the house having recently been condemned as unfit for human habitation. Photographed by Edwin C. Middleton at 14.45 hours on 3 August 1891.

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