Photography vs Art

Originally posted on Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR):

I came across this in the Bodleian Library today:


It is ‘Welch’s Album of Portsmouth and Southsea Views’, printed in Germany, and sold by R. and W. Welch, booksellers, of the Arcade, Landport.

Inside, there is a concertina of images, including this one of Southsea castle

P1040538 copy

And this view of The Govenor’s House – the building was a casualty of bombing during WWII:

P1040528 copy

What’s odd about these images is that they are not photographs, but drawings OF photographs, and at quite a late date, too – the images post-date the building of the Town Hall (1890), but pre-date the breaking up of HMS Euphrates in 1895:

P1040532 copy

Why create a drawing instead of reproducing the photograph? One answer may be that the images were being modified, perhaps to make them more ‘artistic’. Compare, for example, the drawing on the left of the Floating Bridge with the original on the right:

P1040531 copychain-ferry-plus-hms-victory-in-harbour


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The Story Behind the Picture: Karakoram 1936

Source: The Story Behind the Picture: Karakoram 1936

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Dating our Stonehenge Images

Source: Dating our Stonehenge Images

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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 ( 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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From photograph to history: super sleuthing

Originally posted on Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR):

One of our HEIRtaggers came across this image in our ‘mystery location’ collection and decided to find out more.

Wylie: street scene in British town Wylie: street scene in British town

She sent us this report:

‘Having spent a happy couple of hours yesterday evening doing some more ferreting, I can confirm that Resource ID ; 35259
Original Filename : Wyliebx3im002.tif
Caption : Wylie: street scene in British town
has now been identified as

Pickering, North Riding of Yorkshire – the Market Place

The exact date is more difficult to determine.
Herbert Hunt was not running either hotel in either 1893 nor 1913

Last name        First name       Born     Died     Event    Record set         
HUNT            HERBERT           1850       1906     1906     England & Wales deaths(1837-2007)
Location        Pickering, Yorkshire,

In the 1901 census
Herbert  Hunt   51  (born Yorks Wakefield)  was living in  Yorkshire Menston and working as a ” Drug Traveller”  !!

So that would place this photograph between 1901 & 1906′


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HEIRnormous fun and activities at “Social Animals – LiveFriday”

Originally posted on Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR):

After the successful launch of our crowd-sourcing web platform HEIRtagger – – on Thursday 14th May at Harris Manchester College, the HEIR team has taken their message to the public on LiveFriday at the Ashmolean Museum.

“ A wonderful idea – to tap into the general public – use their eyes…”

The evening started with a blast of the past. Clad in Victorian costumes (including a fake stuffed bird and a profusion of red feathers) Sally and Katharina took visitors on an idiosyncratic journey from Oxford to Constantinople in 1880. Baedeker and Murray guides at the ready, the adventurous ladies braved floods, fleas, and other fiendish foes to quench their thirst for adventure and knowledge.

Our lantern-slide show     The audience

Having arrived back at the present, the public got stuck straight into trying out their tagging skills on several iPads, thereby helping us to keyword our thousands of historic images…

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April 1911: ‘The wind…is inclined to blow my camera over’

Originally posted on Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR):

Postcard from GLC: 1910

Looking through Professor Haverfield’s photograph album, our eyes were caught by this postcard from ‘G.L.C.’ (anyone know who this might be?) which is a reminder that taking photographs was a tricky and time-consuming process. G.L.C. was probably using a collapsible field camera, which would still have been a heavy piece of equipment. The camera would have been screwed onto a tripod base to give the camera the stability needed while the glass plate was exposed to light.


G.L.C. writes:

Having splendid weather here except for the wind which is inclined to blow my camera over. The mosaics have quite converted me and I am looking forward to those in the Tunis museum which are said to be better. Hotel Giyimo Rue de l’Eglise Tunis if you care to write before April 14th

The postcard seems to have been redirected to Haverfield on the 11th from his address in Headington, Oxford, to Devon…

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