Friday, 15 May 2015

Volunteers Blog - Anne

Untold Stories behind the photographs...

Last week was my final session as a volunteer at Winter's as the first round of funding comes to an end. I've met so many interesting people involved in the project, all with a passion and an enthusiasm for this important process...and that was before I'd even started working on the glass negatives. Something about this project seems to have fired  the imagination of so many. Perhaps it is the uncovering of a whole store of Derby's history or the little frisson of excitement one feels when the next glass negative is cleaned, wondering what will be seen for the first time in 70, 80, 90, or 100 years.

Every photograph raises questions of one kind or another

I have been lucky enough to have worked on three sizes of glass negatives. The large ones were very formal photos and made me wonder; who was  the Grand Master in his full  regalia, or the gentleman photographed at his desk in his own study? Someone who wanted a portrait surrounded by his own books rather than go to the studio–possibly a man of standing?  And who was the lady in a graduation robe? Now the date of that image would be very interesting. 

Some of the middle size plates I dealt with showed shots of the shop floor at Leys and Ewarts, an engineering firm in Derby. Maybe it was for advertising or perhaps for the company magazine. The dress code was collars and ties, even for the man working the massive capstan lathe!

The smaller negatives became more personal; babies, toddlers, wedding photos, passport photographs. Why were the older couple with the unusual name - possibly  Polish - having a passport photograph taken? They look a little wary and uncomfortable in the photo; a button unfastened in the middle of his waistcoat, her coat looking a little too big. Where had they come from and where were they going?

Will mysteries be unraveled

This project is uncovering so many untold stories, some of which may be told, others partly solved and many will lie dormant for many more years until maybe a chance remark will set the story in motion and a family mystery may be unraveled.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Volunteers Blog - Daryl

Hello, I'm Daryl one of the Heritage Project volunteers.  Having recently been on the blogging workshop, offered to us by the Winter's Heritage Project, I thought I'd take the plunge and tell you about my experience of my half day conservation sessions at Winters.
I had done my half day of glass negative conservation a few weeks ago, but I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to volunteer for a second half day yesterday.
Being the second time (third if you count the Open Day) that I had been behind the scenes at W W Winter I felt a bit more at home.
I was working again with another volunteer that I had met at the Conservation Workshop in January which helped.  We had also been on the previous cleaning session together and at the blogging workshop.
We were directed to a back room on this occasion to address some 12 inch by 10 inch glass negatives.  Previously I had worked in the newly refurbished room on 3 inch by 4 inch negatives.  On that previous occasion we had not managed to process very many as it was our first visit, but this time we got through quite a few more.

During a break Louisa showed us some images from larger negatives that she had digitised by taking digital photos of them.  Unfortunately many of them were beyond recovery, but not all.  The images often of only part of the original were fascinating.  Although I have to admit to being more interested in the machines and buildings than the people, but that's just me.

There was a great image of what seemed to be a Foden Steam Lorry; our cursory web search suggested that it would have been between 1906 and 1911, over one hundred years ago !  Unfortunately our web search turned up nothing about the company painted on the lorry door "Spa".  The lorry was loaded with what looked to me like wooden crates which could have been beer or pop or could it have been "mineral water".  Was there a market for mineral water 100 years ago ?  I don't know, but I'm sure someone out there will :D
Back at the job we were there to do we cleaned and stored some images of Repton School Hockey Team, several wedding images, a couple of a workshop with belt driven lathes in operation and a company motor coach outing.
It was all over very quickly and since we are almost at the end of the first phase there were no further scheduled conservation sessions available.  I will have to wait and see what the next phase brings.

*Editors Note: We found a few Spa~Water bottles in the glass hole in the cellar. Spa-Tona (formerly Spa-Iron Brew) was a drink produced by Burrows & Sturgess of Derby. Hubert thinks we did commercial photography for them - hence the 'still full' bottles seen in this photo!

Friday, 1 May 2015

Volunteers Blog - Christine

The Importance of Research

Heritage volunteer, Christine, talks us through some historical research. It is this type of information that really helps to bring a story alive!

"When I first joined the Winter's project as a  volunteer the area that had most appeal for me was that of historical research. The first step was to decide which line of enquiry to take. Since Winter's was such a well-established firm in Derby, items in local newspapers seemed the best path to follow. The newspaper of choice was the Derby Mercury, and the starting date the early 1850s.

It was not long before all kinds of articles appeared, effectively chronicling the history of Winter's since Walter Winter first took over. From the newspaper I learned that although Walter was evidently a very accomplished photographer, all had not run smoothly with his business. An illegally erected studio, a fire on the roof and a theft from the shop were just some of the incidents that were reported. On the plus side much was made of the success of the studio in staying abreast of innovations in photography . It was also apparent that some of the best known likenesses in Derby were captured in Winter's studios, from mayors to manufacturers. Some photographic portraits were enlarged and sometimes coloured by hand, while others remained small enough to wear in a locket. The sale of fine art products also boosted the funds, as did exhibitions of well-known paintings.

As well as all Walter's business interests, the newspapers made it apparent that he was highly involved in his local community. As with many Victorian gentlemen philanthropy and religion were both part of the picture.
And Walter's employees were not forgotten either, as the firm's first works outing illustrated, when the employees were taken off to the Peak District to enjoy walks, games of cricket and a high tea. As time went on the photographic business went from strength to strength with generations of Derby families turning up at Winter's to have their photos taken. Doubtless, like my own family, many others have a cache of Winter's photographs tucked away in drawers or albums, an archive which has built up over one and a half centuries. It is great to be part of this amazing project which is beginning to uncover just how much of Derby life W. W. Winter captured over the years."