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News: Britain from Above website launches

Britain from Above website
Homepage of the Britain from Above website

01 Oct 2012

Britain from Above website launches


Rare and fragile aerial photos from Aerofilms Collection conserved, digitised and now available online

More than 15,000 images from one of the earliest and most significant collections of aerial photography of the UK have been made freely accessible online to the public for the first time.

English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales launched on the 25th June. The website features some of the oldest and most valuable images of the Aerofilms Collection, a unique and important archive of over 1 million aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 2006. Its chronological and geographical coverage is superb and documents the face of Britain during a period of intense and unparalleled change.

The collection was created by Aerofilms Ltd, a pioneering air survey company set up by First World War veterans FL Wills and C Grahame-White just after the end of WWI in 1919. Wills brought to the partnership knowledge and enthusiasm for air photography. Grahame-White on the other hand was a pioneer aviator and was the first Englishman to qualify for an aviator’s certificate (Aero Club de Paris) and became famous in England four months later when he made the first night-flight during the London-Manchester air race.

The photographs featuring on the website date from 1919 to 1953, and have gone through a painstaking process of conservation and cataloguing. Due to their age and fragility, many of the earliest plate glass negatives were close to being lost forever.

The Aerofilms Collection was acquired for the nation in 2007. With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Foyle Foundation, English Heritage and the Royal Commissions embarked on a programme to conserve, catalogue and digitise the collection and make it freely available online.

By the end of the project in 2014, 95,000 images taken between 1919 and 1953 will be available online, showing the changing face of modern Britain.



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