Cameras of the town’s ‘golden age’

Exhibit of the week''w134616g
Exhibit of the week''w134616g
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This week’s objects are the choice of Whitby Gazette photographer Ceri Oakes who, not surprisingly, picked a couple of cameras from the display in the main museum hall.

For a number of years we have displayed a plate camera used by Tom Watson, the well-known photographer who lived in Lythe, one of a number of commercial photographers operating in Whitby and district during the so-called ‘golden age’ of photography.

Exhibit of the week''w134616f

Exhibit of the week''w134616f

Mr Watson died in 1957 and, through the gifts of a number of people, the museum has a large collection of images taken over a 60-70 year career.

This is just one of several major collections preserved for posterity in the museum, including those of the Doran brothers, Hugh Lambert Smith, John Tindale, and the original glass plates of Sutcliffe.

We also have representative work of many other known and anonymous photographers.

There is a 2014 calendar featuring portraits from the collection on sale at Whitby Museum, and in January we will open a new photographic exhibition, matching some of these images to modern-day views, full details of which will appear in the Whitby Gazette.

Ceri’s second choice is the Argus Argoflex 75, which was produced between 1949 and 1964.

Because most of the images in the museum’s collection were donated there are gaps, meaning that sometimes we are unable to help researchers, or to supply images on demand to publishers or members of the public.

Recent examples of gaps have included inside views of the Abbey House and Royal Hotel before the last war, or pictures showing their staffs.

Other notable omissions are images of local schools now demolished, in particular the former school on Cliff Street, the Cholmley School on Church Street, and schools in most of the local villages, especially those showing children or teachers.

Photographs often assume importance many years after they are taken, when ‘living memory’ is no longer there to recall events, people or locations.

This is when research collections such as those in a museum or archive are important to researchers.

As someone who has recently done a great deal of research into my family’s past I understand the disappointment at not seeing faces from the past when such pictures no longer survive.

Access to the collection is by appointment, preferably with some notice to ensure someone is available to help you as all museum personnel are volunteers.