The Britain from Above website features images from the Aerofilms collection, a unique aerial photographic archive of international importance. The collection includes 1.26 million negatives and more than 2000 photograph albums. Dating from 1919 to 2006, the total collection presents an unparalleled picture of the changing face of Britain in the 20th century. It includes the largest and most significant number of air photographs of Britain taken before 1939. The collection is varied and includes urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial scenes, providing important evidence for understanding and managing the built and natural environments. The collection was created by Aerofilms Ltd, a pioneering air survey company set up in 1919 by First World War veterans Francis Lewis Wills and Claude Grahame-White. In addition to Aerofilms’ own imagery, the firm expanded its holdings with the purchase of two smaller collections – AeroPictorial (1934-1960) and Airviews (1947-1991). This very large collection of historical air photographs was bought by Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), English Heritage (EH), and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) from Blom ASA in 2007.
Britain from Above is a four year project aimed at conserving 95,000 of the oldest and most valuable photographs in the Aerofilms collection, those dating from 1919 to 1953. Once conserved, they are scanned into digital format and made available on this website for the public to see. This project has been made possible due to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from The Foyle Foundation and other donors. The website launched with the first 10,000 images and as we currently have little information about the details in the images, the website provides the opportunity to share and record your memories and knowledge about the places shown in the collection.
Verity Hancock - Project Manager (EH)
I take good care of the whole team and try to make sure that things happen on time and on budget! I really love how the combined work of the team has brought this Collection to life – it’s like you can literally zoom into the past!
Amy Darby - Project Officer (EH)
I look after a variety of administration around the project from maintaining our statistics to processing the finances. I love the conservation side of the project, particularly the squeak of the cotton wool on the glass plates when they're being cleaned!
Rosalind Bos - Conservator (EH)
I manage the conservation team and I carry out repairs on damaged negatives & clear images that have been obscured by any old envelopes adhered to them, this enables the digitisers to handle and digitise the negatives safely. My favourite images are ones showing sailing boats or ships as in my leisure time I like to go sailing.
Louise Dear - Conservation Assistant (EH)
I look after the condition assessment, cleaning and rehousing of both the glass plate and plastic negatives; my favourite images are of seaside scenes. In my leisure time I enjoy researching my family history and I am animal mad!
Lea Winkler - Conservation Assistant (EH)
I work within the conservation team who is responsible for the condition assessment and re-housing of the collection. Mostly I am busy cleaning the photo negatives and rehousing them in archival high-quality envelopes for safe storage. The cataloguing part of our project I find really exciting; I love the research and digging up of stories that they do to find out where the picture was taken!
Liz Fife-Faulkner - Digitisation Team Leader (EH)
I manage a team of 4 Digitisation Officers, we are responsible for scanning the collection and getting the best image possible from each negative. I particularly enjoy the fact that each image has its own story to tell.
Matt Faber - Digitisation Officer (EH)
I very much enjoy being part of a team responsible for rescuing and preserving for the nation an important social and historical record of the twentieth century. I have found working on the images with the aircraft in them of great interest.
Paul Marks - Digitisation Officer (EH)
I have predominantly scanned English glass plate negatives. I love playing my part in bringing the collection to a wider audience. I am fascinated by the pictures within pictures and how this gives us a unique window into the past.
Robert Tims - Digitisation Officer (EH)
I have particularly enjoyed working with the Scottish post war negatives as the landscape is quite varied and the tonal range is very good.
Michael Walker - Digitisation Officer (EH)
I scanned the Welsh glass plates as well as the English glass plate negatives. I enjoy the diversity of the images, especially the sporting arenas and how the stadia architecture has changed over the years.
Katy Whitaker - Cataloguing Team Leader (EH)
I'm based at English Heritage, working on the English images in the Aerofilms Collection. Historic aerial photographs are my specialist subject and I love to see how different our towns and villages looked in the past.
Laura Maddison - Cataloguer (EH)
I'm part of the cataloguing team working on the English photographs from the Aerofilms collection. I'm particularly interested in the images of old sporting venues and people 'at play'.
Angharad Wicks - Cataloguer (EH)
I work as part of the English Cataloguing Team siting and creating entries for the English images in the collection. I love the challenge of trying to identify the images that we have little or no information on and the eureka moments you get when you find them!
Alexander Treliving - Cataoguer (EH)
I'm part of the team at English Heritage working on the English Aerofilms images. I'm a
Christy Parkins - Catalouger (RCAHMS)
I catalogued the Scottish images for the Project. One of my favourite parts was the feeling of being a detective, hunting down ghosts of landscapes past underneath radically altered townscapes
Gareth Edwards - Team Leader, Archive and Library (RCAHMW)
I was responsible for managing, cataloguing and indexing the Welsh images.
Helen Rowe - Archivist (RCAHMW)
I was responsible for managing, cataloguing and indexing the Welsh images.
Ashley Beamer - Web Project Manager (RCAHMS)
I'm based at RCAHMS and oversaw the development of the website which was a very interesting and challenging project. I'm happy to see the site launched and users excited and reminiscing about the places in these historical images. I look forward to working on any further developments in the site.
Tommy Brown - Web Developer (RCAHMS)
As the developer of the site I found this project technically challenging due to the diverse nature of the organisations and the underlying data used on the project. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring together academic knowledge with modern crowd-sourcing techniques.
Alasdair Burns - Publication and Design Officer (RCAHMS)
I worked on the graphics for the website, along with identity guidelines for the project. It's been great to be part of sharing these incredible images and wonderful to see the comments, images and pins popping up on the site since it launched.
Oliver Brookes - Publication and Design Manager (RCAHMS)
My role in the development of this site was to oversee the design work.
Nicky Regan - Desginer (Submarine Design)
Nicky created the logo and branding for Britain from Above.
Alison Cutforth - Activity Team Leader (RCAHMS)
My role is to oversee the events and activities planned to promote the Britain from Above project. I find myself totally engrossed by the stories which emerge as people start to share their memories of the places and events captured by this fantastic collection. This website allows people to enjoy the images and the stories associated with them before hopefully adding their own.
Sandra Brauer - Activity Officer for England (EH)
My job is to show as many people as possible, from all walks of life, how great those aerial images are and that, yes, they are relevant to their personal history, too! I love browsing through the images on the website and finding out how people connect to them. Still waiting for somebody to pin the spot where they fell in love with their sweetheart.
Brian Wilkinson - Activity Officer for Scotland (RCAHMS)
I am based at RCAHMS and it's my role to promote Britain from Above and undertake outreach, engagement and educational activity across Scotland. I'm an archaeologist by training with a huge interest in aerial photography and the stories that lie behind the images.
Natasha Scullion - Activity Officer for Wales (RCAHMW)
I work to promote the project in Wales working with community groups online and out on the ground. I love getting to show people the old aerial photographs of Wales and listening to their stories of how things have changed!