Reflections on the Year…



With the New Year fast approaching most of us will be looking to make some new resolutions.  While we can’t profess to have been as angelic as Marcia Hanbury (photographed here by Knights-Whittome c.1906), here at the project we feel overall very proud of our achievements this last year…

With almost three and a half years under our belt now, the digitisation of the Knights Whittome plates is coming close to completion.  We set ourselves a goal of completing all non-conserved negatives by Christmas 2017, and I am thrilled to say that we are right on schedule, with over 8000 plates now scanned and catalogued,  and close to 7500 of those now available on Flickr.  Our dedicated team of volunteers regularly racks up close to 100 hours every week here at the library and adds countless more hours undertaking research from home.


The wider work of the project is far from complete however.  Our wonderful conservators Sarah Allen and Emma Bonson have been working hard directing a team of student conservators at Lincoln University, and in Jan we expect the penultimate batch of plates back from the studio. In total, nearly 2000 plates will have been stabilised by Sarah and her team, and we now begin the task of scanning and itemising these negatives which should complete the digitisation of all non-printed material by project end.

In addition to the digitisation work, we have also been collaborating with a local writers group, Sutton Writers, who have been running creative writing workshops on our behalf with local schools and women’s groups.  This work aimed to provoke a creative response to the collection while providing a connection to the local community and a worthwhile outlet for community groups.  The partnership will culminate in the spring with the publication of an anthology of creative writing which responds to the Knights-Whittome portrait images and we are really excited to see the results of this exciting collaboration.  We hope to publish tasters from this work during next year.

An exhibition ‘Women in the Frame: Female Portaits from the Knights-Whittome collection 1904-1918’ is also currently in development and this will take place at Honeywood Museum from next Spring, accompanied by a series of events and public talks.  We would love to see some of you there, so keep your eyes open for updates here, on our social media feeds and in the Sutton Borough  ‘What’s On’ guide.

Having spoken to many colleagues about the practicalities of managing this project during it’s lifetime, both as advisors and advisees, we are also talking with PARC (The Photographic Archive Research Centre) and The Photo Collections Network to put together a symposium for other heritage professionals with glass plate collections at next year and we really hope that some of our followers will make it along to one (or more) of these planned events next year before we finish work.

Finally – we really hope to get the Knights-Whittome catalogue online and fully available – along with as much of the research as we can by Summer of next year. This piece of work has been a long time coming and will be the final piece of the digitisation jigsaw, making all of our hard work fully available at last. We will be offering an opportunity for a six month internship with the project in the New Year and this will focus on completing this important piece of work which will form the legacy of the project for years to come.

Overall, there is still a huge amount of work to be done.  Could we do with another year or two?  Short answer, YES!  Another year of funding would make all the difference. But we have been incredibly lucky to have had two HLF grants which have got us to this point, and we hope that by the end of the project, this wonderful collection will be able to speak for itself at last.

So is there is something we could do better?  Yes, always, but for starters, and with no definitive promises, we will endeavour to post a little more regularly here on the blog. With 8 months left to run, there is much research that remains unpublished, and we will try to share more of this with you while we can. In the meanwhile, if you have experience researching individuals online and would like to help us identify even more of our sitters, then please get in touch.  We would love to hear from you.

A huge heartfelt thank you to our wonderful volunteers, without whom, none of this work would have been possible.  May you all have a restful break, a Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Until 2018….


PS Our little angel Marcia Hanbury will feature in our next blog in January…do revisit then to find out more…

One thought on “Reflections on the Year…

  1. Once again my gratitude to all those involved in saving this collection and the many interesting stories and continued conservation of valuable insights into early photography of local and Forces portraits.


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