We are really pleased to be able to offer work placements to local students here at The Past on Glass. Everyone who works on the Knights-Whittome collection feels quite passionately about the importance of our Edwardian glass plate negative collection – indeed about the Local Studies and Archives collection as a whole, without which none of the research on this material would have been possible – and nowhere is this more keenly felt than when you see the stories of these photographic sitters made relevant and meaningful through the eyes of young people. Digitising collections like these does not only help to keep the memories of the people and places portrayed alive, but it helps to inform our own lives. These collections help to root us in our communities, understand that our lives owe something to the past and help us to develop a sense of our own place and role in the world. As ‘Richard’ as visitor to our exhibition wrote in the visitor book:
‘When I look at these pictures and let my imagination run riot the people pictured appear to speak to me. They say: “Here I am. Look at me. I matter.” They say it right now and not as an echo from the past. Maybe that flight of fancy has something to do with the dignity and gravity portrayed in these seminal images. Or perhaps it has to do with the fact that have all been here and lived their lives, through good times and bad, earned their living, and crucially, they had children. We can only speculate as to the importance of their own contributions, and of course, that of their successors. They most assuredly do MATTER. They touch upon our lives to this day. There is a huge sense of poignancy about these pictures. It touches me and presumably others too. I am very glad to have seen them.’
Our second work experience student of the summer was Sarosh Ahmed from Carshalton High School for Girls, who spent a week with us immediately in the run up to our exhibition launch. Sarosh not only got involved in handling and rehousing plates but she also undertook some research and spent a whole day helping with exhibition preparations, which is not something we can ordinarily offer students, so I am glad to hear she enjoyed her time here. One thing we always hear from students such as Sarosh is just how touched they were by the material in the collection. Today Sarosh tells us about her experiences at the Archives. Thank you Sarosh, you are welcome back any time.
“Hello, my name is Sarosh and I recently had an amazing opportunity to be able to become a part of The Past on the Glass Project, here at the local Sutton Archives. These few days have not only been enjoyable but they have also allowed me to try out and experience new things which have fascinated me completely and increased my passion for History to develop further.
It felt like an honour to be able to open the glass plates knowing that you are the first one to do so for one hundred years, and then to clean them was also so interesting. Each glass plate conveyed a story of its own; of someone who once lived and this intrigued me. I was able to gain an insight of a certain moment in another person’s life whether it is at a wedding, birthday or any other memory. Scanning plates was one of the other jobs that I was able to carry out and this is where my ICT skills played a role. I found this highly engaging as it was interesting to see how glass plates from WW1 could now be accessed online.
In addition, I was touched by the stories that unfolded as I researched the lives of some individuals. Gerald Watkins Brett Wileman was a soldier who died as a captain during World War One at the age of just 26. This story had me engrossed and the fact that I was able to see a picture of this soldier at the age of 20 made me feel even more attached to the whole project and to an individual’s life itself.
Overall, this experience has been wonderful due to the relaxed, supportive and friendly environment. All the colleagues and volunteers on the project were very helpful which made this a comfortable and an enjoyable experience, allowing me to take away beautiful memories with beautiful people.”