Volunteer blog – ‘Researching Images’

This week Joanna talks about some of the processes of researching the images for the Trust:

Hope everyone is coping with the lockdown. Thank goodness for the internet which enables me to carry on with research. Also I have been through my Winter’s notes and put things in some sort of order, tied up some loose ends and reminded myself of things I had forgotten.

Apart from cleaning, sorting and recording, one of the most interesting things that I do is finding out about the stories behind the prints and negatives. I have always been interested in the development of Derby and family history, so having the opportunity to look at old photographs I was in seventh heaven. A quote from the Derbyshire Post of July 1885 sums it up in better words than I can. The words were written by a reporter who was making a tour of the Winter’s premises after a major building programme after the fire of 1883.

‘’….the plate when printed goes to a negative room to be added to the 50,000 other plates there. Here they are ticketed and laid aside till fate requires them. If each one could tell the tale of why it came to be there, many an interesting history could be told; tales of happiness, woe, love or disappointment….’’

When researching a print or plate it is mainly a matter of looking for clues – who, when, what, why, hence the importance of looking at all the information that you can gather from the print/negative and the bag that it might be in however intelligible it may seem at first. The negative number will give an approximate date; names are usually written on the negative and often on the bag. Prints often have the negative number written on the back, then it is a case of what you know personally or what you can find in a book or on the internet. The recent find of the name of the rower Orlando Meakin is a good example. The name on the bag was easily read as ‘Meakin’ the initial was a squiggle. Looking through newspaper articles and finding an O. Meakin rowing in the approximate year. The ancestry website led to an Orlando Meakin. And then, the researcher’s dream, a newspaper article of his obituary filled in the details. It is like a big newspaper puzzle, trying to relate one piece of information to another and hoping it will fall into place. I hasten to add that it is not always as successful as that one, luckily the name was unusual.

Volunteer blog – ‘Aspects of Volunteering’

This period of social isolating in the UK has meant that the incredible efforts of our volunteers have had to be paused. We have invited them to share with you some of their experiences which hopefully will give you an insight into the experience of volunteering at Winter’s. We’re really missing our little heritage family and look forward to things returning to normal; but in the meantime, please enjoy our heritage blog posts!

We (Malcolm and Joanna) have been volunteers at Winter’s for over four years now. He came because of his interest in photography and me because ”we would like to find out about the history of the place and the families who owned and worked at the business.”

Armed with green then blue rubber gloves and natural fibre brushes we have cleaned what seems like hundreds of glass plate negatives – who knew tar sprayers came in so many varieties (with and without chimneys, with metal rimmed wheels, wheels with tyres, big wheels, small wheels). And the negative numbers … Negative numbers presumably started at 1 when the business started and continued in a consecutive manner until a new system was introduced in 1959 , using the last two year numbers as a prefix hence 631234 was photographed in 1963! All the information is entered into a computer and the glass negatives scanned.

Then there is the print collection, and the equipment, as well as open days, exhibitions and projects……….More about some of those next time.

Volunteer Blog

We are lucky to have a number of volunteers working with the Heritage Trust – an invaluable resource to any charity. Here is a snapshot from one of our current volunteers, Nick, to give you an idea of what goes on in the background:

I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember so when I was given the opportunity to volunteer at W.W.Winter at Midland Road in Derby I jumped at the chance. Having just retired I wanted something to keep my mind active but also to be involved in something useful. I persuaded my wife, Sue, to join me in this little challenge and together we attended an enrolment evening at Winters where we were led through a portal into the past, a history of photography in Derby. Well, my appetite was well and truly whetted and I couldn’t wait to get started. Sue and I attended a further brief session at Midland Road along with several other like-minded friends of the W.W.Winter Heritage Trust where we were shown how to clean, sort, scan and log glass plate negatives; it’s a mammoth task.

Archive image of vehicles from W W Winter
One of the old images from W W Winter of old tractors, scanned and archived by Nick and Sue

There are thousands of glass negatives dating back to the early years of W. W. Winter. So far Sue and I have helped to catalogue hundreds of glass plates, mainly from the 40’s/50’s. There are a lot of weddings and domestic events to catalogue but every now and again a commercial gem appears. Sue and I have just scanned several glass slides of machinery and vehicles involved in a land drainage scheme near Ashbourne in 1956; a little mundane you may think but the vehicles and machinery of are of interest to me, so the research of a particular area or event, or even the company involved, sit side by side with the photographs as some documentation still exists.

From the same image, a Land Rover, a van, and a truck

At the moment my wife and I spend one morning per week at Midland Road and I can honestly say it’s an enjoyable and interesting experience cleaning, scanning and logging glass negatives which were last looked at over 60 years ago. My wife enjoys seeing the clothes worn during the period, my interest is the vehicles so we both derive pleasure from the experience whilst offering our time.

As a retired fireman I’m hoping that one day I’ll come across old firefighting equipment or fire stations lost and forgotten both Borough, City and hopefully private brigades.