Until recently only around 130,000 photographs from the vast
archive of 300,000 images were available to view on the Frith
website www.francisfrith.com. Cataloguing, scanning and
processing the images is very time-consuming, and for many years
the company concentrated its efforts on promoting and marketing
this initial selection.
Then in 2014 The Francis Frith Collection was in a position to
start digitising the entire archive with the eventual aim of
publishing the additional 200,000 images on its website, allowing
this extraordinary national treasure to become accessible to all,
in its entirety.
The decision to undertake this major project was not made
lightly. It turned out to be a mammoth task that took two years
to complete, with five full-time and other part-time staff
sorting, researching, identifying and data-entering the images
on the Frith internal system, before each image was photographed
on a state-of-the art high resolution digital camera.
The digitisation project was a huge challenge that was undertaken
at enormous cost, at the company’s own expense and without any
public funding, but by mid 2016 the images were ready for Frith’s
IT team to start processing and uploading to the website.
The original materials the digitisation team worked with covered
the gamut: hand-written ledgers and collodion glass plates,
platinum, albumen and gelatin-silver prints, smaller format film
and most things in between.
Even with the best technology and processes, handling so many
delicate and varied materials made this a slow, laborious and
complex task, and even though every image has now been recorded
and scanned, the work hasn’t stopped!