MEMORY LANE: Looking into the archives

Jason Chadwick looking through a box of prints from the Buxton Advertiser's archives.
Jason Chadwick looking through a box of prints from the Buxton Advertiser's archives.

Photographer Jason Chadwick describes the archive material which will be used in a series of special monthly retro supplements in the Buxton Advertiser, entitled Memory Lane.

These days, when thousands of digital photographs will fit on a memory drive smaller than a matchbox, it’s hard to imagine that for decades we struggled to find storage space for our archives.

Indeed at one time they took up a whole floor at the Buxton Advertiser and that bulk is the main reason why so many newspapers destroyed these records in the 1980s and 90s. But as the saying goes everything comes back into fashion eventually, and now with local history and nostalgia becoming so popular any old material is incredibly popular.

Luckily this interest in the past coincides with new technology that allows us to digitally scan a range of sources quickly and at high resolution without the need to use a photographic darkroom.

From 1965 until we switched to digital photography in 2001 almost all our negative archive survives intact and that could be as many as 100,000 images.

Some of us might not like to think of the 1960s as history but it was a very different world. A world of steam trains, bicycling policemen, boy scouts in shorts and schools that remained open when it snowed. And what snow it was! Not the light coverings that cause such disruption today.

Unfortunately we no longer have more than a few glass negatives from before 1965. Their bulk and weight means they were given away or destroyed many years ago. But we do have boxes of prints going back to Victorian days.

These are very much a lucky dip. Because they are not labelled or organized, a random handful can contain anything from long-lost landmarks like the giant Empire Hotel to elaborate Victorian amateur dramatics and all manner of sporting teams. A four-legged chicken from the early 1970s gets the prize for the weirdest thing uncovered so far.

There are some well-known events and some complete surprises that might well be really important to someone out there. The Beatles playing at the Pavilion Gardens, the snowed off county cricket match of 1975 and the blizzards of 1947 and 1963 are perhaps the most famous and most requested photographs we have, but I think the great interest and fun of this project will be the sheer amount of everyday material - we can get a better idea of how we lived by looking at all the small details of everyday life than from big one-off events that stick in our memories.