Looking Deeply to Date the Past

Geography: England: Oxfordshire: Oxford: "Floods Nov. 1894"

Geography: England: Oxfordshire: Oxford: “Floods Nov. 1894”. HEIR resource 51932, GEOGbx82im003.tif.

Although the HEIR Project archive now has more than 15,000 images, only a tiny fraction of this number arrived with specific dates in their caption. When we come across a picture with a caption such as this one of Oxford, we thank our lucky stars, as we know the where and the when, providing the beginning of many a great story.

Harris Manchester College: England: Oxford: "Oxford, Univ Coll" "S. Mary the Virgin-bit of Queens College" "WHP"

Harris Manchester College: England: Oxford: “Oxford, Univ Coll” “S. Mary the Virgin-bit of Queens College” “WHP”. HEIR resource 41553, HMCbx1im012.tif.

Most often, image dating comes from research, either our own or work done by the many people who have been assisting us via the HEIRtagger website (www.heirtagger.ox.ac.uk). For example, while preparing for a lecture, we were reviewing images of Oxford and took a good look at this view of University College on the High Street. Although the front of the University College still looks much the same today, the cobblestone street paving, horse droppings and the clothing on the girl standing in the street suggest that this is a 19th century image. The dating breakthrough, however, came when we noticed that in the centre background of the image the Brasenose College Tower was surrounded with scaffolding. As this structure dates to the 1887-1889 period when the High Street frontage of this college was rebuilt, we can now estimate that this picture was taken in either 1888 or 1889, as the tower was nearly complete.

Many of our images hold clues, such as merchant signs, clothing styles, streetlights or even automobiles that can provide all the information needed to date the picture. Your support of HEIRtagger can make all of the difference when you take the time to look at all of the information in our images.

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About Archaeology Archives Administrator

Researchers in the archives of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford. Home of the Historic Environment Image Resource. Passionate about old photographs and fresh biscuits.
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