going-digital-bannerSpreading Dronfield’s photographic archives across a table paints a fascinating picture. Amongst images from Hector Kyme, Roger Redfern and the Clareborough collection, is a striking record of the social, architectural and industrial development of our town.

Faces of long lost Dronfield are frozen in time. A policeman directs two open top buses at the bottom of Green Lane, where now a mini-roundabout controls the traffic. Two women, marooned in a flooded shop, laugh as a large barrel floats along Sheffield Road. The young boys of Dronfield church choir sit smiling in school caps and breeches. A cheeky grin from the youngest, whose socks don’t quite reach his knees, is captured forever.

Digitising Dronfield’s archives will make the town’s history and heritage accessible to all. For the first time, paper documents, photographs and maps stored in the Peel Centre will be available online, via mobile phone and tablet, and on interactive screens inside Hall Barn.

In a project supported by the Collections Trust and working with the Old Dronfield Society, the Dronfield Heritage Project will produce a pilot scheme of searchable digital archives from scanned material. In addition, links will be formed with archives stored throughout the country, facilitating research and providing the people of Dronfield with easy links to historic records. Beginning with the immediate surroundings of Hall Barn, initial digitisation will cover varied aspects of Dronfield’s social, industrial and architectural history. These include images from the annual Cycle Parade, photographs of colliery and metal working sites and dramatic pictures of Dronfield in flood.

The first pilot sample of 250 images, maps and documents was handed to Neil Smith, MD of Knowledge Integration, in February. Neil has a wealth of experience managing online archive collections for museums, galleries and libraries, providing greater access to UK wide culture, arts and heritage.

We now hope to extend the digitisation of Dronfield’s archive collection into phase 2 of the Heritage Lottery funded project. Ultimately, over 2000 images and documents will be made accessible through digital media and available to view in the new Heritage and Arts Centre.

Community involvment is at the heart of every stage of the Heritage Project. Together with Dronfield Henry Fanshawe School, we hope to establish an after school club for students with a keen interest in history and archiving. With guidence and training, students will be provided with the skills to digitise and record the extensive school archive collection, preserving its rich history for the future. Our grateful thanks to all the staff and students for their enthusiasm and support.