'Those places Thursday' is rather an appropriate day to feature the recent launch of the Britain from above website. This is a lottery-funded project and the result of a partnership between English Heritage, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (Comisiwn Brenhinol Henebion Cymru).
'It features some of the oldest and most valuable images of the Aerofilms Collection, a unique and important archive of over 1 million aerial photographs taken between 1919 and 2006.
The Aerofilms Collection embodies all that is exciting about aerial photography. Many shots were taken in the early days of aviation by ex-First World War pilots, from extremely low altitudes, a technique which was very dangerous. It shows just how far their pilots were willing to go for a great photograph.
The photographs featuring on the website date from 1919 to 1953, and have gone through a painstaking process of conservation and cataloguing. Due to their age and fragility, many of the earliest plate glass negatives were close to being lost forever.
The Britain from Above website features a high degree of interactivity and is designed to encourage wide public participation. Users can download images, customise their own themed photo galleries, share personal memories, and add information to enrich the understanding for each of the images. They are also invited to identity the locations of a number of “mystery” images that have left the experts stumped.
The Aerofilms Collection was acquired for the nation in 2007 when the company was facing financial difficulties. With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Foyle Foundation, English Heritage and the Royal Commissions in Scotland and Wales embarked on a programme to conserve, catalogue and digitise the collection and make it freely available online.
The number of images available to view on the website will continue to grow, and by 2014, some 95,000 images taken between 1919 and 1953 will be visible online.'Some of the images already online are absolutely stunning, and as the extract above says, the site is interactive, and is actively seeking help with identifying some of the locations. Judging by the number of comments already added, people are taking to this very eagerly.
There is a good search engine, and you can join a discussion forum on a place or subject that is of interest to you - I notice that there is one my fine home city of Glasgow. As usual, I tested the search facility by looking for my current place of residence, which is a long way from Glasgow and very much smaller, Chesham in Buckinghamshire. I found 16 photographs, including one from 1928 where I can even see MY HOUSE! Google Maps, eat your heart out. Go an have a look for yourself, you'l enjoy it, I promise.