Tag Archives: history

How many photos have ever been taken? | 1000memories

Today we take photos for granted. They are our memories of holidays and parties, of people and places. An explosion of cameras and places to share them (Facebook, twitter, instagram) means that our lives today are documented, not by an occasional oxidizing of silver halide but constantly recorded with GPS coordinates and time stamps. However it hasn’t always been like this – the oldest photograph is less than 200 years old

An interesting article, well worth the read. The bit that hits home for me is the shoebox thing. I’ve got three filing cabinet drawers of analogue photos. I am aware that even the most recent of those film negatives is getting on for 15 years old now. They will degrade, although they’re kept in the dark.

My task, currently, is to digitise my collection—though I find I am curating as I work, not bothering with images I am not interested in. Perhaps I should rethink this attitude. I offer this as a service to anyone who has important or valuable analogue images. Once a photo has been digitised, the original can be stored away safely, and the digital copy can be shared more readily.

If you have a collection of old photos you would like to digitise, but which you don’t have the time, skill or patience to do yourself, drop me a line.

Hat tip to Alex Small (@onemanrace) for pointing me to the link.

More Festival of Britain

As I’ve noted elsewhere, this year sees the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Festival of Britain. I think I also mentioned I had a copy of the Festival magazine which my father had acquired when he was taken to see the exhibition at the tender age of 11.

I had been thinking of scanning the pages and putting them online somewhere, but being a cautious type I worried over copyright and other stuff, so prevarication and procrastination won the day. The magazine still sits in the drawer, protected from the light.

Luckily, the nice people at Things Magazine took the challenge, and have posted scans of the book’s pages.

Consider the advertising therein, and consider how many of the companies advertising are still operating. It’s a little sobering.

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Eisenhower’s worst fears came true. We invent enemies to buy the bombs | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian

It is not democracy that keeps western nations at war, but armies and the interests now massed behind them. The greatest speech about modern defence was made in 1961 by the US president Eisenhower. He was no leftwinger, but a former general and conservative Republican. Looking back over his time in office, his farewell message to America was a simple warning against the “disastrous rise of misplaced power” of a military-industrial complex with “unwarranted influence on government”. A burgeoning defence establishment, backed by large corporate interests, would one day employ so many people as to corrupt the political system. (His original draft even referred to a “military-industrial-congressional complex”.) This lobby, said Eisenhower, could become so huge as to “endanger our liberties and democratic processes”.

I wonder what Eisenhower would make of today’s US, with a military grown from 3.5 million people to 5 million. The western nations face less of a threat to their integrity and security than ever in history, yet their defence industries cry for ever more money and ever more things to do. The cold war strategist, George Kennan, wrote prophetically: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial complex would have to remain, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented.”

Mr Jenkins is absolutely right. Sadly, the siren call of Eisenhower has gone unheeded, and we are—to misappropriate a phrase from another wartime chief—reaping the whirlwind.

We’re doomed. Doomed, I tell ye!

“Oh, not another queue” | Ian Jack | CiF | The Guardian

Walking around London’s South Bank on Tuesday, I tried to match a few fragments of memory to the present geography. Where did we queue to get inside the Dome of Discovery? Where did we queue to buy the commemorative crown pieces, the silver five-bobs that suddenly made sense of the term “half-crown”, of which they were the vanished ancestors?

Queuing wasn’t an unusual custom in those days – for cinema matinees, or the butcher’s – but at the Festival of Britain the waiting was formidable. It dominated parental complaint, so that my personal soundtrack from that day 60 years ago is the noise of adult dismay – “Oh, not another queue” – that reached a climax when we took the boat to the Battersea Pleasure Gardens and, after more queuing, discovered the thing we’d come to see wasn’t working. There had been some kind of accident on the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway, the fantastical line created by the cartoonist Roland Emett, and the booking office was closed.

An interesting memory from someone who visited the Festival of Britain.

Related post: Festival of Britain Showcase | The National Archives

Festival of Britain Showcase | The National Archives


If I had a time machine, this is one of the events and places I’d like to visit. I have a copy of the Festival of Britain guide, price 2/6.

As part of the 60th anniversary commemorations of the Festival, which opened to the public on 3 May 1951, the National Archives have put a small exhibition of some of the materials they hold online. I’d love to see more, but we must be thankful for small mercies. You can also find out more over at Wikipedia.

Of course, there are still legacies of the Festival. On the South Bank, the Royal Festival Hall, and in Poplar, south London, you can find the Lansbury Estate.

Britain needs to end its love affair with the world stage | Jackie Ashley | CiF | The Guardian

And once upon a time it might even have been reasonable, as Britain continued to gently adjust to new realities. But we have a big debt, dwindling military capabilities and far bigger problems to confront as a country. We don’t know how we are going to pay our way in the world any more. We are still unsure of how, if at all, we fit into the rest of the European project. It is no longer appropriate that it is Britain who, when some part of the world goes up in smoke, rides first toward the sound of gunfire.

We should do our bit, but no more. We should learn our lesson after Iraq. Why should richer, bigger Germany do so little in Afghanistan? Why was Libya not an Italian problem before it was a British one? Now that India and Brazil bulk so large on the world stage, why aren’t these two democracies doing more for the democratic cause?

I don’t think I need to add any comments, save to say I agree completely.

Kit’s Coty House – a set on Flickr

At some point about 5,000 years ago, a person or persons died. Their friends and relations saw fit to bury them in a long barrow, on the south side of the North Downs overlooking the Medway Valley in Kent.

Over the centuries the earth mound eroded away, although apparently the remains of the mound were still visible in the middle of the 20th century, leaving three standing stones with a cap stone. Known as Kit’s Coty House, the remaining stones stand isolated, near a field edge and the North Downs Way footpath.

I’ve lived in the area for nearly a quarter of a century. I have known of Kit’s Coty House, and the nearby Countless Stones, all that time but never before managed to visit. The monument, one of the first Ancient Scheduled Monuments in the country, is some way off the beaten track, with no easy parking, so despite it only being a couple of miles from home, it’s a proper expedition in order to find it. Well worth the effort, though.

England then and now | Julian Glover | CiF | The Guardian

‘It is certain that the English must adopt a strict system of national economy or that sooner or later national bankruptcy must ensue.” Every generation likes to think it lives in original times. It is never quite true. The remark above is two centuries old: a somewhat theatrical overstatement, then as now.

A very interesting piece. Well worth the read. Julian Glover finds 200 years of progress haven’t meant a great deal after all.

BBC remasters Civilisation for HD | Media | guardian.co.uk

It was a landmark documentary series that is still discussed in hushed tones today. Now Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, the acclaimed BBC2 series from 1969 that traced the history of western art and philosophy, is to be remastered in high definition for a new generation of television viewers.

The 13-part series will be repeated in full from next month on the BBC‘s high definition channel, part of what the corporation called its “wider commitment to the arts through showcasing the jewels of its arts archive”.

I am very much looking forward to 9 February.