Cleaning and repackaging the Stanley Opie archaeology collection

Back in November we announced that we had received a grant from Cornwall Heritage Trust to begin a programme of conservation, digitisation and dissemination of the Stanley Opie collection of archaeology photographs. After a delay while we awaited restocking and delivery of the necessary materials from our conservation supplier, the project has now begun.

Repackaging glass negatives

Repackaging glass negatives

The collection of about 1,000 quarter-plate glass negatives (plus a few acetate negatives and positive prints) is being cleaned and repackaged in batches of 50. Each glass plate must first be removed from the old folded card slip, then be inspected. If in a stable condition the glass side is then cleaned with distilled water and a conservation-grade microfibre cloth, before being lightly brushed to remove any loose dust on the emulsion side. Most of the slides are fairly dirty (residue from development, mould from storage), and the difference before and after cleaning is significant. This will mean clearer digitised images, and provide more stability for long term storage of the negative.

The cleaned negative is then placed into a new cruciform negative enclosure. These arrive flat and we must first number and fold them in batches before cleaning commences. The negative in its new enclosure is then placed into a larger box that can accommodate forty of them. The box is then labelled with the collection name and number range contained within.

Each box of negatives is then carefully digitised and the scan is attached to the corresponding record in our photographic database.

This database will soon be available online, and you will be able to browse Stanley Opie’s wonderful and largely unseen photos of Cornwall’s heritage as seen from the 1920s-50s. We plan on releasing regular updates to the database, adding recently digitised images to their catalogue entries.

We are very grateful to Cornwall Heritage Trust for enabling us to undertake this project.

The old cardboard slips and a new glass negative enclosure

The old cardboard slips and a new glass negative enclosure

Morrab Library receives grant to digitise archaeological photo collection

The first Gorsedh Kernow in 1928 with Grand Bard, Henry Jenner

The first Gorsedh Kernow in 1928 with Grand Bard, Henry Jenner

The Morrab Library has been awarded a grant of £3000 from Cornwall Heritage Trust to digitise an important collection of photographs relating to the archaeology of Cornwall.

The Stanley Opie collection consists of 1,001 glass negatives, covering topics such as the first Cornish Gorsedd in 1928 at Boscawen-ûn, standing stones, excavations, buildings, crosses, settlements, historic landscapes and more. They are, on the whole, beautifully taken photographs which deserve to be seen.

The grant will allow the Library to place its Photographic Archive database online, along with access copies of all photos scanned to date. The Stanley Opie negatives will then be scanned, placed into conservation grade four-flap envelopes, boxed, and finally placed online as a dedicated collection for all to see.

Stanley Opie was born in 1912 and took up photography, and gained a passion for archaeology, at quite an early age. He gained a diploma in Anthropology from the University of Oxford and took part in many archaeological excavations during the 1930s to 1950s. Some of his photographs depict the excavation of a Roman villa at Magor Farm near Camborne, others are of excavations and sites yet to be identified.

It is hoped that by publishing Stanley’s photographs online that we may improve their descriptions and identify excavations and sites through comments and suggestions received through the website.

The Morrab Library is grateful to Cornwall Heritage Trust for their generous support.