The Express & Star Photographic Collection partnership has received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help digitise photographs dating back over the past century, it has been announced today.

The partnership, set up by regional daily newspaper the Express & Star with the University of Wolverhampton and WAVE: the museums, galleries, archives of Wolverhampton, will make an estimated one million photographs dating back more than a century available to the public via an online platform.

Development funding of £59,800 has been awarded to help the partnership, which includes Black Country community group representatives, progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The project aims to carry out vital archiving work, digitise the collection and make the photographs available through a single web portal, allowing free on-line public access to the unrivalled images of local events, momentous and everyday, for the first time.

Educational and community programmes will also be established to allow local people to use the collection to make sense of their heritage and history.

The Express & Star photo archive has been described as one of the most important regional photograph collections in the country, including photographs of royal visits and speeches by Prime Ministers, through to images of local ways of life which have since disappeared.

The collection includes wartime images which were not published due to government censorship and a photograph of American civil rights activist Malcolm X visiting Smethwick in 1965, nine days before he was assassinated. Following digitisation, the original images will be transferred to Wolverhampton City Archives where they will be preserved for future generations.

Express & Star editor Keith Harrison said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has  supported our partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, WAVE and local community groups. “Many of these photographs are deteriorating with time, so it is excellent news that they will be preserved digitally to be searched, free of charge, by the general public.

“Thank you to all of the readers and members of the public who supported the project by taking the time to give their views on the collection’s importance, either by writing in or by interacting via social media, to back the preservation of this historic collection.”

Dr John Pymm, Dean of the University of Wolverhampton’s Faculty of Arts, said: “It is excellent news for the partners and the wider community that this exciting archive project has won initial HLF support.

“We know that this valuable collection is a substantial historical source and a mass of regional personal stories. It documents a huge shift in the social, economic and physical landscape.

“Making the archive available will give thousands of people access to a unique record of the history of the Black Country.” The University will be managing the grant and the digitisation work.

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