English Heritage appeals to public to tag vast collection of First World War aerial photos

By Culture24 Reporter | 24 July 2014

The public are being asked to help tag an amazing collection of aerial photos of World War I Britain

Click on the picture to launch the gallery

Intersected by narrow roads crossing a vast grid of fields in the Dorset village of Pulham, the Royal Navy Air Service Airship Station was one of Britain’s key wartime sites, a base for more than 3,000 men by the end of the conflict which remains pictorially impressive looking back on the black and white images which remain of it.

Pictured from above, Pulham is the subject of one of 95,000 aerial photos on a website, Britain from Above, offering a vertiginous glance at the dramatic changes Britain experienced during the first half of the 20th century.

Created from a collection compiled by the company Aerofilms, organisers at English Heritage are appealing to viewers to “tag” the archive, dotting the photos with the sites, ruins and remains they know about.

“We really need help,” says Simon Thurley, the group’s Chief Executive. “Sites needing to be tagged might be defence structures erected on the coast or secret listening stations that intercepted enemy communications.

“They might be shipyards, factories and other buildings where armaments and supplies were produced, gardens and parks turned over to allotments, hospitals where wounded soldiers were treated or country houses requisitioned as convalescent homes.
“Perhaps people know of a local drill hall where a relative went to sign up or a training camp where they were prepared for the front or there was a prisoner-of-war camp in their area.

“We’re calling on members of the public to turn detective and use their local knowledge or family history to identify the many unlocated remains of the First World War across the country.

”These high-resolution images are, in many cases, the only recorded recollection of the impact the war had on towns, cities and the countryside."

Taggers will be able to zoom in, leave annotations and freely download the photos from what Thurley terms a “great historical jigsaw”, or add their own close-up historic and contemporary photos of the sites and relatives who were there.
“The archive tells us much about the places, buildings, and landscapes that were the backdrop of everyday life,” says Karen Brookfield, from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has provided £1.7 million in funding for the project.

“We want as many people as possible to share their knowledge and join in with ‘tagging’ images in the archive to show the dramatic impact the First World War had on our country.”

The four-year project is also continuing its efforts to conserve, digitise and catalogue the archive.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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