Taking a walk through history

by Katrina ffiske

Salisbury on Camera: 50 years of the Salisbury Journal Archive is an exhibition of photographs taken through the decades by the Journal.

The preview, at the Salisbury Museum, was on Thursday May 4, where many gathered to take a trip down memory lane.

It was in 2015 that Salisbury Museum acquired the Salisbury Journal photo archive.

“The collection contains in excess of 450,000 images – stored as negatives, prints and digital files,” said Lucy Bridal, chief operating officer at the museum. “Over the past seven years a dedicated team of museum volunteers have been digitising the negative collection. More than 200,000 images have been scanned to date.

“The director, Adrian Green, and I, decided to invite museum volunteer Ken Smith, to go through and whittle down the images for an exhibition. We were thrilled when he agreed. The collection provides a unique record of the city and surrounding area so we were keen to share it with the public.”

the Beatles on Salisbury Plain

The Beatles on Salisbury Plain

The exhibition is clear and simply laid out with photographs mounted on board and placed in simple bands of colour. The photographs do all the talking, no captions to clutter the mind. If you want to know more there are guides in each room with mini-images of the photographs with short explanations.

Volunteer Ken Smith was at the preview to take questions. This was quite a big project to take on – how did he cut down 200,000 images to the 244 that are in the exhibition?

“It seemed daunting at first, but after chatting with Adrian and Lucy,” Ken said. “We simplified it by picking themes and I would pick a photograph that fell within each theme: major events, fashion, sport, music, environment, buildings, famous visitors and everyday life.

I actually chose the main bulk of the photographs and Adrian did the final curating of the images.”
It was interesting seeing the evolution of Salisbury through looking at the photographs. Many evocative black and white images of the past.

A medieval building demolished ahead of road improvements

A medieval building demolished ahead of road improvements

Can you remember the city before the one-way system was built or the days when we could wander through and touch the stones at Stonehenge?

Ken commented on the 1950s images. “Fashions then were more conservative. Young girls dressed like their mums. In the 1970s, it was particularly sad to see an iconic medieval house being demolished to make way for the ring-road. Today a building of that age and quality would be protected.

“As the years went on, there was a greater diversity of people being photographed.

“After the coronation in 1953 there were crownings for every occasion. Whether it was a shopping week launch or village fête, a young woman was crowned and carried off in a horse-drawn carriage. These images are of Salisbury, but they reflect what was happening throughout the country.”

Ken was the ideal person to go through the photographs.

A native of Salisbury, he has always had a passion for history, borne out in his 35 years as a history teacher.

One of the photographs from the 1980s shows him with a collection of horseshoes, dating from medieval times, which he found locally and donated to the museum. Since retiring he has been a volunteer at Salisbury Museum.

Salisbury and south Wiltshire MP, John Glen, was thrilled with the exhibition. “It’s a wonderful visual collection of the city’s past,” John said. “The years go by so quickly that one can forget things so the photographs bring back so many memories for me.”

Tom Corbin, the ex-mayor of Salisbury, was also there. “It is very nostalgic seeing all these images. I think each person who visits will take something different away with them. It is particularly interesting seeing how many famous people have visited our city.”

It is fun to go through each decade to spot the visiting stars including: the then Prince Charles, David Essex, Wilko Johnson, Alan Rickman and Bob Geldof.

Salisbury on Camera: 50 years of the Salisbury Journal Archive runs until October 29.

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