Thursday, November 19, 2015

#explorearchives Researcher Jon Heal blogs about using our Archives

Amongst the Warrillow Collection are glass plate negatives, many over one hundred years old, from William Blake's stationer's shop in Longton. Inspecting the detail in the original negatives created and used by Blake to print picture postcards, I feel I’m looking over the shoulder of the man at work. Photography at the turn of the twentieth century involved the use of glass plates in a bulky camera, the setting up of a tripod, and the use of a ground glass screen to obtain a sharp focus.  The quality of these early images is quite amazing when the difficulties of photography are appreciated!

Warr.174. An early Blake view showing Longton from the tower of St James' Church (1905). Inspecting the original negative, it’s remarkable how much detail is visible through the smoke!

Looking at the glass plates also helps me to date when pictures were taken.  Earlier negatives tend to degrade, edges yellow and the surface acquires a metallic appearance, yet remarkably most images can still be seen clearly.  It is a great privilege to be able to view this marvellous collection at Keele.

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