Lottery backing secured for Express & Star photo archive bid

Posted Monday, June 9, 2014 by Chris Leggett under News

An ambitious plan to make more than 750,000 photographs, spanning 140 years of West Midland history, available to the public has been given lottery backing.

Proposals to publish the Express & Star picture archive, which dates back to the paper’s origins in 1874, on a free public website are being developed after the newspaper, working in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton and the city council, secured £59,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The partnership will use the money to develop a detailed blueprint for the project, before the team applies for a six figure lottery sum to carry out digitisation work.

More than 100 groups and individuals had backed the bid, with letters of support coming from as far afield as Canada and Australia.
Supporters included the Black Country Society, the Landor Society, which celebrates the history of Rugeley, the Black Country Memories Club, and the London Wolves Supporters Club.

Mike Pearson, of the Black Country Society, said he was thrilled that the bid had been successful.

“It is a really exciting project, and I don’t get excited very easily,” he said.

“It’s not just the photographs, it is the social history behind it, it represents 140 years of how the Black Country has grown and changed.

“It is the memories of people, they see a picture from 60 or 70 years ago and say ‘I was a child then and I remember that’.”

Wolverhampton city archivist Heidi McIntosh said one of the most common requests she received was for people wanting old newspaper photographs from years gone by.

“People come in and say ‘my son was in a football team’ or ‘there was a picture of a major event in the paper and I was in the background.

“When the project is up and running, anybody will be able to access these photographs now.”

She added that the collection was the only regional newspaper archive of its kind in the UK.

Business development manager at the university’s faculty of arts Scott Knight said the announcement was the culmination of many years hard work by the university, the Express & Star, and the council.

“I think the response from people we have had throughout the process shows how excited people are about this project.

Principal lecturer at the faculty Sam Hope added: “It’s people’s history, which is very important, and to be part of that is quite an achievement.”

Express & Star editor Keith Harrison said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be part of this project to preserve and protect such an important part of our region’s heritage.

“I have no doubt that the archive will become an even more important facility to the entire community and we’re very grateful for the support of all those involved, including our readers.”

Among the thousands of images in the Express & Star’s archives are photographs of Winston Churchill at Molineux, black civil rights leader Malcolm X walking down a street in Smethwick, and King George VI in Dudley.

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