Express & Star in bid to secure funding to digitise 750,000-strong photo archive

The UK's highest-selling regional evening newspaper has launched a bid to digitise its archive of deteriorating photographs dating back more than a century.

Wolverhampton's Express & Star has called on readers to write letters of support to help secure Heritage Lottery funding for the three-year project, which will be carried out by volunteers and supported by Wolverhampton University and WAVE (the Museums, Galleries and Archives of Wolverhampton).

The estimated 750,000 photographs are currently filed in a dark room. The task of digitisation will involve individually scanning the original photographs along with their corresponding captions.

The photos, some of which date back to the First World War and beyond, have degraded over time, while the family-owned newspaper says it does not have the resources to digitise the photos itself.

The archive contains both monochrome and colour photos from events of local and national significance, including a photograph of Malcolm X on his 1965 UK tour, months before his assassination.

Other photos include royal visits from King George Vs reign, pictures taken during both World Wars and images from the 1953 Coronation. Generations of Wolverhampton residents are celebrated in street scenes and pictures of working life.

There are pictures marking some of the more comedic moments of the Express & Star's 139-year history of reporting on the Black Country, such as this shot of an elephant using a phone box in Castle Hill, Dudle, dating from 1978.

Once the project is complete, members of the public will be able to browse the photographs on an online database. High-resolution copies could then be downloaded for a fee which would be invested back into the archiving fund. 

Chris Leggett, brand and communications manager at Express & Star publisher Midland News Association said: "As the leading paper for the region, local people trust us and have let us into their lives for decades.

"I would welcome any letter of support, which will help us with the engagement aspects of the bid form. If we can show there is a strong appetite nationally to see this archive, we hope the photos can be preserved."

Readers wishing to support the project can find more details on the Express & Star website.

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