Unpacking Your Memories: Looking into the Family Photograph Album

Categories Art & Photography, History0 Comments

A short series on the collection, identification and preservation of family photographs; how to interpret the images you find and their significance for the social historian.

Do you have a family photograph album or simply one of those boxes stored in the attic and piled full of old snapshots, or even strips of celluloid ‘negatives’?

This series of short articles is to encourage you to get down the box, open the album and look at your old photographs. Try and identify the people, events and places in the prints and if possible who took the original photographs. These will have been of some significance to your particular family and their circle of friends at the time they were taken, perhaps even to the wider community in which they lived and worked.

Marriages and christenings, religious ceremonies of your particular faith, school photos, work outings and holiday snaps are all of interest to the social historian; as are snapshots of ‘one off events’ such as VE Day, Armistice Day Commemorations or Coronation and Jubilee celebrations.

Historians are interested in a wide range of photographs reflecting local events, from civic ceremonies to political meetings and any visual records of the activities of professional associations, clubs or leisure pursuits. This could include photographs from the local WI or of Old Cornwall Society meetings and may range from snapshots of members of the local brass band to hikers and walkers groups, speedway enthusiasts or sports clubs.

These are all social and cultural activities that have helped to shape Cornwall’s Story as much as those ‘big events’ such as the First or the Second World War or indeed the later Falklands conflict.

We would be particularly interested if you hold or discover a family ‘archive’; the records of someone who was a dedicated amateur photographer, or film-maker, in the family or the locality.

This can be a voyage of discovery for you into the history of your family, friends and local community, which may reveal as much about your ancestry as researching the family tree and discovering roots and relatives you were previously unaware of.

The series of articles by Bob Keys will provide examples of how to date and interpret the family photos with some advice on preservation and more importantly where to go for further professional guidance if you want to preserve a lasting visual record of your family’s Cornish Story.

Most family photographs will of course only be of interest to family members as a record of births, weddings and significant anniversaries, but you may find something rare or unusual, which could be of more general interest.

At Cornish Audio Visual Archive (C.A.V.A) we would like to hear any interesting stories you discover and see any early or unusual photographs you may uncover: an address and e-mail contact are given below. If you record your findings carefully these may prove invaluable to social historians and cultural historians in the future.

Dr. Garry Tregidga at g.h.tregidga@exeter.ac.uk

Cornish Audio Visual Archive
Institute of Cornish Studies
University of Exeter in Cornwall
Tremough Campus
TR10 9EZ

This series will continue in next month’s issue so don’t forget to keep checking back!