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Creating Photo Archives

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Today I finally got around to revealing the Milton Photo Archive to the world, something I spent a lot of time working on the last time Beth was away researching walks for WalkLakes.

Two events spurred me into doing it: firstly we had long talked about creating a photo gallery for WalkLakes. Beth is taking a lot of photos and every walk features at least one or two photos at the top and for every step so the number of photos she's uploaded is now well over 1,000. Right from the start I got her to tag them with the OS grid position of the subject (not her position, which can often be rather different when she's taking a photo of a distance hill).

Loughrigg Fell trig point
Loughrigg Fell trig point

The original object of doing this was give us an easy way of finding and re-using photos in future but it also meant that when we needed to find a way of presenting the photos putting them all on a clickable map was the obvious solution. And indeed we've now done that and you can find it under the "GALLERY" tab at WalkLakes.

What made me turn my attention to Milton was that I was contacted by Kate McManus the Local History Recorder for the Chesterfords (near Saffron Walden). She has been given some albums of photographs and newspaper cuttings about the Rev Allen who was vicar there in 1917-20. His wife was the daughter of the Pryors of Milton Hall and two of the albums had photographs and cuttings about them so she wanted to pass them on to me in the hope I could find them a proper home.

She kindly posted them to me and they were fascinating. Before I passed them on to either the parish council or the Cambridgeshire Collection for safe keeping I wanted to share them with the village so I bought a new scanner and started scanning.

Milton Hall June 1922
Milton Hall, June 1922

Then I got thinking about other images I had. For example a book called William Cole of Milton which was written in the 1930s and is now out of copyright and includes photos, mainly of Milton House in Fen Road, taken in the early 1930s. Plus I had some other photos I'd acquired over the years from the Cambridgeshire Collection, and yet more historic photos and plans I'd acquired from other sources relating to Milton Hall.

So there were quite a few old photos and documents. And then there were my photos of course. We've been here for over a decade and a half now and I've been taking pictures all that time, first on 35mm film SLR (with the photos professionally scanned to CD), then on a succession of digital cameras up to my present Nikon SLR. So I had photos of events like the flooding around Fen Road down near the river and the erection of the Jane Coston bridge.

Faced with all these images the obvious thing to do was to use the same technology I was already thinking about for the WalkLakes photos.

And so the photo galleries of the two sites evolved side by side and they now work fairly smoothly with some nice use of OS OpenSpace mapping and of JavaScript to handle the "carousel" when you're looking at a set of tagged images.

They are different however: the WalkLakes gallery is almost entirely location based, there are very few tags, and the date the photo was taken is known with some considerable accuracy as it normally comes from the EXIF data.

For Milton tagging is more important, and we've got a lot of tags. Plus the accuracy of date varies a lot. Sometimes we don't even know the year of the images with any great certainty. So when entering the date of the image you can specify it in full, or year and month, or just year, and then flag the date as a guess if necessary.

For Milton I also added a "source" field as it was sometimes useful to be able to flag where the images came from in a more general way than "from the photographer". So sources includes the Pryor Family Albums and the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Finally I bolted our existing blogging facility into the Milton version of the gallery so that people can add their comments to the photos. This is especially important with the older photos as I'm hoping they can fill in some of the gaps.

Tags: Beth, JavaScript, maps, Milton, photos, WalkLakes, web design Written 07/04/13

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