Picturing the Past in Photos, Postcards and Illustrations

We’re often asked for images, illustrations and photographs for a variety of reasons: house or building history, planning and model making are just a few. So we thought it might be useful to list a few sources of useful information about how to access images, both online and in our collections.

Firstly, with a title including ‘Picturing the Past’ we couldn’t forget to mention the fantastic website Picture the Past which has thousands of searchable images from throughout the East Midlands.  If you are particularly taken with an image you come across, you can even have it made into a cushion cover, coaster, or mug, among other items!

The images range from the scenic


to the posed


to the celebratory


We also have an A-Z Illustrations card index in our collection Local Studies collection which can be accessed in our Card Catalogue Room in the Local Studies Library. This contains references to photos, illustrations, postcards and other imagery. These often provide clues as to what a building may have looked like internally as well as externally, railways, mines and industry, and family and public events.


You can also find photographs and images in our Archives.  A search for ‘photograph’ under ‘description’ in our online catalogue revealed 633 results.

In addition, if you are looking for aerial photos, the incredibly useful website Britain from Above has some useful images from around Britain. This is one of Derby.  Let us know if you have any useful sources for illustrations, photos or other types of images!

Derby from the Air

Potter & Co Collection: 414 items later

If you have been following my blog each week you will already know that I have been organising a collection that was donated to the Derbyshire Record Office between 1975 and 1976.

As a trainee archivist I am prone to making mistakes, and this has been the project that has taught me the most; and has been a way I can practise all the theory that I have been reading on my Master’s course.

My main mistakes have been:

  • I naively made a miscellenous box, which months later I was required to go back to and individually put them into CALM ready to be published on the catalogue.
  • I did not organise the structure of the collection properly, which, if it had been left like that, would have made looking for similar documents more difficult.

Weeks later, I now have a collection that has all the items (all 414) either individually mentioned, or grouped together (with photographs this has happened). They have been grouped together with similar documents in series and subseries (made my head spin during this stage). The extent (how many items there are) has been filled in and all items have been given  the date that they were created, or a rough estimate if the date has not been stated.

Now I am required to start adding the reference number to each of these items, which I started months ago. Luckily for me, the items that I had already written the refernce number on do not need to be changed (thank goodness!) Whilst in the process of numbering the documents, they will also be reboxed together.

For those of you who missed my first blog, the picture below is the 21 boxes that is this collection. 12 boxes have already been numbered and reboxed.

Next time I am at the Derbyshire Record Office, the daunting task for completing the last 9 boxes will commence.

21 boxes, 414 items

21 boxes, 414 items

Goodbye Helen, and Thank You


Helen Ellis, a long-serving member of the Record Office team, left us on 30th January 2015 after 11 years of service, to follow paths anew.

Helen had previously worked as an Assistant at Newbold Library, but it is her commitment to the job and the knowledge which she brought to Derbyshire Record Office, both in archives and with local studies, which has made Helen such a valued member of staff.

Helen is setting up as an independent researcher in the near future, but will be sorely missed by all at DRO.

We would like to thank you, Helen, for your dedication and hard work. We wish you every success in your new job, and look forward to hopefully seeing you again from time to time.

IMG_8221 IMG_8222

Repairing the Past event

Our very first Repairing the Past event took place last week and looking at all the wonderful comments we received, we can safely say that it was a big success: 

“Very clear, informative and interesting”

“Very informative and professionally delivered, excellent session”

“Good stuff!”

Participants were shown a presentation explaining how we look after and repair our documents, with advice on how to translate that into looking after precious mementos at home.  We then walked to the other side of the building and climbed two flights of stairs to visit the Conservation Studio, where Assistant Conservator Clare demonstrated a dry paper repair technique.   There was also a display of damaged and repaired documents, conservation and packaging materials and specialist suppliers catalogues to look at.

Visiting the Conservation Studio

Visiting the Conservation Studio


Clare's demonstration

Clare’s demonstration


Tools of our trade

Tools of our trade

Once all the enthusiastic questions had been answered we went back to the meeting room, where Clare and I looked at documents, photographs and books people had brought with them and gave advice on storing them safely.

We will be repeating this event on Thursday 18 September – book early to avoid disappointment!

When: Thursday 18 September, 2.00pm to 3.30pm                                                           Where: Derbyshire Record Office, New Street, Matlock, DE4 3FE                                          To book: call 01629 538347 or email record.office@derbyshire.gov.uk


50 Treasures

50 Treasures ExhibitionEver since Derbyshire Record Office turned fifty in 2012, we have been showcasing treasures from our Archive and Local Studies collections.  These items are chosen because they hold special meaning for our staff and users – their favourite, most interesting, inspiring, thought provoking, or simply the most beautiful. These are items that stir the imagination, tell the best stories, and reveal the secrets of our local history.

If you would like to nominate a treasure; a document, book, map, photograph, or even a whole collection which inspires or delights you – then please get in touch and tell us all about it!

Please email: record.office@derbyshire.gov.uk or tel: 01629 538347 with your suggestions.