From Darkness into Light

We present the first blog about From Darkness into Light by the Project Officer, Dr. Andrew Cusworth. We are very grateful to him for his excellent work on this project to digitize our slides collections.

Thanks to Nigel Callaghan of Technoleg Taliesin, we are now able to incorporate images into our online catalogue. This is only the beginning; we hope it will lead to many more digitized images being available on-line.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working in Ceredigion Archives to digitize a large tranche of the Archive’s collection of photographic slides. The purpose and motive behind the work is a simple one: to make the slide collections more accessible to people. Of current photographic media, the slide suffers perhaps the most from its inconvenience – slides consume time, effort, and money in their creation, storage space, and require specialist equipment for their viewing; it is rather paradoxical that a format once highly valued for being visible to an audience on a screen – be that the family or a hall full of people listening to a talk – is now so difficult to view or share.

The work involves a range of activities: identifying images that might be relevant to the Archive’s remit, ensuring that their catalogue record matches them correctly, gently cleaning the slides, scanning them, organizing the digital files, and, finally, web-mounting the new digital images in the Archive’s catalogue.

As much of this work is essentially practical in nature, it leaves some mental space to consider the collections at hand, their history, medium, and content. Some of them are miniature in nature – ADX/1207 is a collection of just four rather disparate slides taken in the August of 1960; others, such as ADX/1489 (on which more soon!), are altogether more substantial. ADX/1362 provides a visual record of a local carnival in 1976, with images taken in a now obsolete amateur photographic format that represent snippets of a personal experience of an event; LIB/78 provides a glimpse into a more professionalised approach, in which the technical details about the image such as the light levels, exposure time, and lens aperture are recorded on each slide’s mounting card.


A group of children dressed as playing cards in a carnival in Aberystwyth, 1976.

The first slide collection that I scanned was that of Godfrey Hill (MUS/227), a local urban and industrial historian who gave presentations on these topics to local clubs and societies. His photographs are, for the most part, of architectural and industrial details: specific buildings and their features, electricity cabinets, even services access covers are among his regular subjects. However, occasionally, his images, either deliberately or accidentally, capture other things – people peering into the windows of a shop that has now vanished, the blurred image of a passing car now long out of production, or the efforts to clean up a flood in a street; as such, they capture a little of the life of the architecture and material culture that they so often record. This, then, is perhaps additional result of the project, and indeed of making any document more accessible by sharing it with a wider audience online: to allow people to look for the things that interest them, and to find shared meaning in collections of images that were, after all, originally intended to be shared on a screen in front of an audience.


Flooding on Cambrian Street, 1967

[Dr. Andrew Cusworth]

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