St. Helens Council Library Service has been awarded a £69,700 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, ‘St Helens Through The Lens: The Jordan and Metcalfe Photography Collection’.
The project will engage St Helens residents in uncovering the local heritage contained in a collection of 3000 glass negatives, The Jordan and Metcalfe Photography Collection, rescued from a building which had previously been a photography studio. They include a variety of photos including weddings, portraits, sporting occasions, amateur dramatics and community celebrations dating between 1890 and 1970.
The discovery of the photographs is fascinating in itself. Staff from St. Helens Local History and Archives Library rescued 4,000 glass negatives from the sealed-up backroom of a pet shop at 16 George Street, St Helens, in October 1984.
They discovered that while 1000 of the negatives were broken, 3000 remained intact. Further research revealed that the shop had previously been a commercial photography studio owned by a number of professional photographers, from Fred Ash in 1885 to Geoff Williams in 1970, with various members of the Metcalfe family running the studio from 1847 – 1948.
It is important that this heritage is preserved by digitising the images, as in time the images on the glass negatives will deteriorate and the photographs will be lost forever.
Now, thanks to a grant from HLF, the Jordan and Metcalfe Photography Collection will at last be preserved and made accessible to the public. Once all the images have been digitised, an Artist in Residence will be the driving force in engaging the community in this journey, bringing the project to life whilst revealing hidden stories of St Helens.
Creative writing and reminiscence workshops for elderly residents, primary school activity and volunteering opportunities will all form part of the project. The Library Service also calls for local help in identifying the St Helens people and places documented in this amazing collection of photographs.
Commenting on the award, Councillor Jeanie Bell, St Helens Council Cabinet Member, Public Health and Wellbeing said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and really look forward to our residents helping us to identify the people and places in these previously unseen images from St Helens recent history.”
Sara Hilton, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, this fascinating project will preserve the history of St Helens and provide digital access to this remarkable collection of photos and memories for future generations.”