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Historic Photography Project (Esmee Ffairburn)

October 2012

Historic Photography Project

Posted by Arabella Calder on 16 October 2012
Large Oak tree in winter at Wyesham, Monmouthshire, photographed by S.G. Charles in 1935.

This work is in copyright, however, the copyright holder could not be traced. If you know who the rightful copyright owner is, please contact National Museum Wales.

Beech woods at Ruperra, photographed by G.T. Flook in 1928.

This work is in copyright, however, the copyright holder could not be traced. If you know who the rightful copyright owner is, please contact National Museum Wales.

Cardiff Castle Keep, by an unknown photographer, early 20th century.

Here at the Museum, we've started digitising some of the images from our historic photographic collections. We have been very fortunate to be given funds from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to carry out this work, and over the last few months we've been busy, putting together a project team, renovating some office space and sourcing the specialist equipment we need to carry out this work.

A lot of the images that we are working with are around 100 years old, and most of the negatives are captured on glass plates, the medium most commonly used prior to the invention of film. So far we have scanned about 250 images. Some of these show Cardiff Castle during excavation work in the grounds. These photographs were mostly taken around 1901 and they include some striking pictures of the Castle Keep completely covered in shrubs and ivy, looking very different to how local residents know it today.

We have also digitised a collection of glass plate negatives of 'Notable trees of England and Wales' some of which date back to the 1890s. There are some beautiful images contained in this collection, including oak trees with immense canopies and ancient beech woods. We have shared these photographs with some local tree experts and they have helped us to pinpoint the locations of some of these trees. In some cases, if the tree is still there, they have helped us to compare our glass plate negatives with contemporary photographs of the tree to see how it has changed over the last 100 years.

We have plenty more images to scan and I'll be providing updates on our progress as we work our way through the collections. But in the meantime, here are a few of our favourite pictures so far.

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