Second World War photos to be preserved in Express & Star online archive

Posted Thursday, December 5, 2019 by Chris Leggett under Uncategorized

Hundreds of historic photographs dating back to the Second World War will be the next to be preserved for future generations as part of the Express & Star photo archive project.

Volunteers are currently cataloguing about 800 images ahead of them being digitised and made available to the public via a free website.

About 3,500 photographs showcasing the history of the industrial past of the Black Country as well as many from the First World War have already been published.

The project, which was set up back in 2008, is a partnership between the Express & Star, the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton City Archives to ensure the printed photos taken throughout the 20th Century were made available to the public via an online platform

Senior city archivist Heidi McIntosh said the Second World War photos provide a fascinating insight into the region’s past.

Wounded soldiers arriving at Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton, June 1944

“There are lots of great photos from the Second World War. They are local stories and local people. They include the Home Guard, buildings that were bombed, evacuees, local prisoners of war and injured soldiers in the Royal Hospital. 

“They’re also interesting because of the censorship policy. To keep morale up and to not let the enemy know what buildings had been bombed, names of pubs and buildings such as churches have been scrubbed out so unless you knew the area you wouldn’t know what had been bombed.

“A lot of them have a stamp on to say they had been cleared for publication and others couldn’t be published so people will be seeing these for the first time. It’s going to be really exciting,” she added.

The collection is expected to be followed by photographs showing streets scenes of Wolverhampton and local sports clubs. It is hoped that by the middle of next year about 5,000 photos will have been digitised and made available to the public.

The photo archive project was recently under the spotlight at the Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities conference organised The National Archives and Research Libraries UK.

Heidi, along with Scott Knight, of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Wolverhampton, who has worked on the project since the initial partnership discussions in 2008, gave a talk on the partnership at the event in Birmingham.

“It was certainly well-received. We didn’t have too much information on our slides because we wanted to let the photos speak for themselves. We had lots of people coming up to us afterwards saying they wanted to replicate the project elsewhere,” she said.

Wounded soldiers with their captured flag at Wordsley Emergency Hospital in 1943

The first 3,000 images to be published on the website following support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund included photos from the 1960s taken at steel industry operations across the region. 

There were also images from the final years of mining, and pictures of workers for brands with local heritage including Cadbury’s and Chubb.

These were followed by photos from the First World War and of local churches and war memorials.

They can be viewed at photo-archive.expressandstar.co.uk

The Express & Star photo archive has been described as one of the most important regional photograph collections in the country, as it includes photographs of royal visits and speeches by Prime Ministers, through to images of local ways of everyday life which have been replaced in the modern world. 

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