Digitised drawings and fabulous photos: Highlights from our Online Collections
The Royal Commission’s archive – the National Monuments Record of Wales (NMRW) – like most archives is made up of several diverse collections. We have 916 distinct collections in total, which range from the small and specific to the large and wide ranging.
Many of these are physical collections that are accessible only by visiting our search room in person or by contacting the enquiry team to request copies. Although this year’s restrictions have made access to physical collections difficult, it has given us a new-found appreciation of our wonderful digital collections.
As with most archives, it is increasingly common for new collections received to have been created wholly digitally. Combined with our ongoing work to digitise our collections, this means that there are in excess of 100,000 items available to view freely online on our catalogue, Coflein. This blog lists a few of the highlights:
The Aerofilms collection is one of many aerial photography collections held in the NMRW. The photos in this collection were taken by Aerofilms Ltd. a private aerial photography company established following the Great War, whose photos range from 1919 to 2006. After the Aerofilms firm ceased operating, the Welsh portion of their photographs were acquired by the Royal Commission. In 2010 several external grants made it possible to establish ‘Britain from Above’: a four-year project working with English and Scottish partners to digitise the most precious photographs – those dating from 1919 to 1953. These photos can now be viewed on Coflein and on the Britain from Above website and give a fascinating insight into the changing faces of Welsh towns and cities.
Discover more about Aerofilms and the changing face of Britain in the first half of the twentieth century in the book, Aerofilms: A History of Britain From Above (2015) available on our website.
Arthur Chater was highly regarded as a botanist, but (unknown to most) he also amassed a huge photographic collection. Some 4,000 of his black & white photos, primarily of sites in Cardiganshire taken between 1955 and 1965, have been deposited in the NMRW, with thousands more on the way. Over 2,800 of these photos are already available to view online.
The artist Falcon Hildred is known for his pencil, ink and watercolour works of industrial landscapes, especially Blaenau Ffestiniog. A notable example of a collection purchased by the Royal Commission, we have digitised almost 600 examples of his work. As well as viewing the artworks online, the Royal Commission’s book on his work, contains over 200 colour illustrations by the artist drawn from many different collections. A wonderful art book, it is also a useful work of reference to industrial buildings and landscapes.
The Royal Commission’s extensive aerial photography collections contain photos from the RAF, the Ordnance Survey and other organisations. However, since 1986 the Commission has also had its own programme of aerial reconnaissance. This focuses on Wales’s historical and archaeological sites and includes the monitoring of scheduled monuments for Cadw as well as discovering new archaeological sites.
Capturing changing landscapes, moments in time, stunning views and new discoveries.
Did you know?
Since 2016, the National Monuments Record of Wales has been the national archive for aerial photography in Wales and now holds over 2 million aerial photos spanning the last hundred years.
Learn more about our historic aerial photos in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUg0tMh2uGQ
Established in 1946 as a successor to the wartime Ministry of Information, the Central Office of Information was the UK government’s marketing and communication department. In the course of its work producing promotional and information material for British citizens, it built up a substantial library of photographs. This library was eventually dispersed and in 1992 RCAHMW acquired a collection of photographs, transparencies and negatives of Welsh buildings and sites. Over 700 of these photographs have now been digitised and can now be viewed on Coflein.
By Rhodri Lewis, Enquiries & Library Assistant