North East Midland Photographic Record - Picture the Past

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The libraries and museums of Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire have in their collections, hundreds of thousands of historic photographs, slides, negatives, glass plates, postcards and engravings recalling the history of the local communities over the last hundred years and more. In the past, these treasures were held in filing cabinets and anyone who wanted to see them would have to make a trip to the library or museum - perhaps to several different locations. Thanks to a major award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the four authorities are now working in partnership to digitise the images and make them available on the Internet, through the unique Picture the Past website. The project began when staff from the four library authorities put their heads together to come up with ways of making the collections more easily accessible to everyone, while protecting the images, many of which are fragile and irreplaceable, from wear and tear. The grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, backed up with funding from the four councils involved, is enabling people all over the world to log on and see the collections, while ensuring that the originals are properly conserved for future generations. Local studies librarians have been busily trying to sort out the copyright for individual images. In many cases, it is the library that owns the copyright, but many thousands of letters have been sent out to other copyright holders, seeking their permission to make their images available on the Website. With their co-operation, users of the Picture the Past Website are able not only to see the images they are interested in, but also to print copies if they wish. A printed copy from a home computer is perfectly adequate for homework or study purposes, but for those users wanting to own a top quality glossy photographic copy the Picture the Past website includes an on-line ordering service. This enables users to browse the collection and order and pay for their selections securely on-line. The prints are produced on state of the art equipment and despatched by first class post. All the income raised from this service goes back into the conservation and preservation of the original pictures. There are some images in the collection that haven't been identified and Picture the Past welcomes help from members of the public in providing any further information.

Venue Type:


Opening hours

24 hrs Online:

Admission charges

Completely Free

Easy to use, fully searchable website containing thousands of historic photographs, slides, postcards and paintings from the collections of the libraries and museums of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The website forms an important documentary of the lives of people from all over Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and shows people both at work and at play. New images are regularly added and users are encouraged to provide information to add to the collection.

Collection details

Archives, Photography, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • The Board Collection
  • Joseph Wright of Derby
  • Reg Baker
Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Picture the Past

Excellent on-line resource for pupils, students and researchers looking for images and information relating to the social and industrial history of the North East Midlands. With over 58,000 images available on-line, users can search for pictures of life through the ages including early 19th Century, Victorian and 20th Century. Fully searchable subjects include welfare, poverty, industrial development, leisure, family life and housing as well as many others.


  • Derbyshire County Council
  • Derby City Council
  • Nottinghamshire County Council
  • Nottingham City Council

How to obtain

Leaflets, guides and promotional material are available from the project manager, Nick Tomlinson, or 01773 716967

North East Midland Photographic Record - Picture the Past
c/o Derbyshire County Council
Heanor Library
Ilkeston Road
DE75 7DX




01773 716967


01773 535465

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.