LOOKING BACK: Putting the Duke’s photo librarian in the picture

Buxton Advertiser archive, Victor the 9th Duke of Devonshire (centre) and the board of trustees of the Buxton Cottage Hospital, probably on the opening day in 1912 or the opening of the extension in 1924
Buxton Advertiser archive, Victor the 9th Duke of Devonshire (centre) and the board of trustees of the Buxton Cottage Hospital, probably on the opening day in 1912 or the opening of the extension in 1924

Keeping abreast of the digital revolution, Chatsworth’s photo librarian Diane Naylor believes she may have the best job in the world.

A London photographer who I was working with recently said I had the best job in the world; this was after a 7am start on a frosty morning so we could photograph “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” this year’s Christmas theme, ahead of the visitors. At the time I was reluctant to agree but, with hindsight, he may have a point; I do work in a wonderful location and my days are rarely the same.

My job title belies what I really do. I do look after actual photographs, which can be transparencies, slides and the archival black and white photographs in the Devonshire Collection.

But nowadays I mainly work with digital images; image being the generic term for a photograph in this digital age.

The advent of digital cameras has seen the proliferation of many hundreds of images but there is still the place for proper photography.

I work with professional photographers to achieve “fine art” photographs of items in the collection. There can be many challenges especially when photographing silver with reflections or paintings which cannot be easily taken down from the walls.

In the past five years film has ceased to be used and all new photographs are now in digital format.

We also commission photography of the rooms in the House, which can throw up their own problems due to their size; even in the largest room the photographer can be pinned to a wall to get the best shot. The resulting images need cataloguing and storing so that they can be easily accessed and used.

We have a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system that runs alongside the Collections Management System, so that any object record can have a digital image attached.

Over the past few years I have been photographically recording the work on the Masterplan overcoming my fear of heights by the weekly donning of hard hat, steel toe-capped boots and high viz jacket to scale the giddy heights of the scaffold that encased the House.

It is a privilege to see the craftsmen at work on both the exterior and interior of the building watching the restored spaces emerge.

These digital photographs will be the archive of the future.