The Interior of a Tank Factory: Thinking about how we explore images

Through my work in the archive and exploring our digital collections I’ve encountered several incredible photographs. Recently I have been preoccupied with thoughts on how we provide access to these images, and particularly how digital technology allows us to explore things in particular ways.

Through digitisation we have extremely high-resolution copies of original documents. These act as surrogates that we can share much more widely online, proving access beyond only to people who are physically close enough to visit the archives in person, which is great; access and knowledge are democratised. What I’ve found in looking through these high-resolution digital copies is that they change how I look at images.

This photograph is from the Stern collection here in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives.

Interior of a British Tank Factory during the First World WarThis shows the interior of a tank factory during the First World War. The composition and lighting are striking. The sense of scale and level of industry and resources, both in terms of workers and material, are made very apparent.

The digital copy of this image was scanned at a resolution of 6,919 x 5,656 pixels. At this extremely high-resolution we can zoom right in and explore the image in great detail. As I zoomed and panned around I ended up lingering on different sections of the image, fascinated by vignettes I was seeing. I was drawn to the people.

The first thing I did was zoom in on the area showing the boys at the work bench. They seem so incredibly young. Looking back at the image as a whole, you can see them, but at this scale they become individuals, with their own lives.

Crop of Interior of a Tank Factory

These different faces and poses have such personality. My colleague and I spent time a long time exploring this one image, fascinated by all the individuals. As you go through each part in this way, zooming in and panning around, the screen becomes a new frame within the original frame of the photograph. Isolating elements of the photo in this way allows you to see things in different ways, and obviously at an incredible level of detail.

It seems clear that the workers have been called to look towards the camera. Some are posing, some are looking up from their work, and others are ignoring it and just carrying on.

Look at the pose of the man leaning on the tank tracks!

The upshot of all this is that I found this ability to zoom all the way in and pan around the image was a different experience to looking at the photograph as a whole. One could compare the experience to that of looking closely at a physical print of a photograph with a magnifying glass. I think the point is that we should carefully consider how we present digital copies of material to users. The technology is now such that we can provide this experience to people online, whereas even relatively recently a digital copy was a lesser version of the original, but at least you could see something. And having found that the experience of roving across the photograph impacted the thoughts and questions that were coming to me, I think it’s more than just ‘oh, we can stick really high-resolution images of photos online.’ The act of zooming and panning to create new frames within the image felt very different to just panning around a fixed level of zoom.

Due to storage limitations I can’t share the same experience in this blog. But there are tools available that mean in the near future we should be able to provide this experience to users accessing material remotely, looking through collections online. This democratises not only the access to material but also to the experience of getting extremely close to material.

Reggie’s Honour

An article in the Daily Herald in which Mr J Dixon Taylor recalled Reggie’s appearance at the Lord Mayor’s Procession of 1931 when he inadvertently scared some elephants (see King’s Alumni Official History of Reggie the Lion), led to one of Reggie’s many outings. The show organiser mistakenly referred to Reggie as a ‘toy tiger’ and greatly offended King’s students of the time. On the 27 October 1938 the engineering and medical students gathered a large crowd, headed by Reggie, and marched on the Daily Herald’s office. The crowd was reportedly greeted by the paper’s editor, who promised that the complaint would be passed on to the gentleman responsible for the insult. Following the incident the students wrote that ‘Reggie is once more on his perch, once again his tail wags with all its old ferocity, yet once more he has risen triumphant overcoming all his foes!’

Reggie the Lion marching on the Daily Herald.

This outing was recorded in the scrapbooks of David Leete which are held at King’s College London Archives.

 

Who is this man?

Last week a member of the Faculty of Natural and
Mathematical Sciences brought in a very large, old, framed photograph which had
been hanging in the Physics Department for many years. Sadly, no one in the Department knew who it
was of but they felt it might be of interest to us here in the Archives.

My difficultly was trying to identify the young man in the
portrait.  Judging by his clothes, his
moustache and his hairstyle, I estimated that the picture was probably taken
around 1900-1910.  It was a large
photograph in a very fancy frame so he must have been important.  So, who was he?

Well, I believe it is an early photograph of Charles Glover
Barkla who was appointed to the Chair of Physics in 1909.  He remained at King’s for four years during
which time he published extensively on his research into x-rays. Barkla then
moved to Edinburgh and in 1917 he was awarded a Nobel Prize for this work.

Here is a later photograph of Barkla for comparison:

[By George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Am I right, have we found a photograph of
Charles Barkla in his 20s?

by Frances Pattman, Archives Services Officer

Gallery

This gallery contains 5 photos.

Selected by Frances Pattman, Archivist During World War One the Daily Mail issued several series of postcards of images taken by official photographers on the Western Front. In the papers of FM Viscount Alanbrooke are bound volumes of letters written to … Continue reading

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This gallery contains 1 photo.

Selected by Patricia Methven, Director of Archives & Information Management What Photograph by CH Foulkes captioned ‘A continuous trench of British and German killed in daily use behind the firing lines’, Ypres 1915. Why The sheer ordinariness of the scene, … Continue reading

Gallery

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Selected by Patricia Methven, Director of Archives & Information Management  What Photographs of a farmer ploughing a field in Ypres and a dog cart taken by the then Major Charles Howard Foulkes in Ypres, 1915. Foulkes was a Royal Engineer … Continue reading

Gallery

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Selected by Patricia Methven, Director of Archives & Information Management What On 20th March 1917 Edward Spears, Head of the British Military Mission in Paris, in Beauvais following a joint British and French senior commanders’ meeting, had time to look … Continue reading