When I came back from my research trip to England this summer I wrote a post complaining about how few of these archives were online. At the time I knew one of the collections was working hard to put things up on the web, but I was waiting for the official announcement – which I finally got today.
Images of Empire today launches its new website at www.imagesofempire.com, providing online access for the first time to the unique archive of historical images held at the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, UK.
Visitors to the website can now explore over 6,000 still images and film clips from the collection, which is currently the UK’s largest dedicated resource of photography and film on the British colonial period. Images from the archive can be navigated and viewed using an advanced search facility and photographs from the collection are available to order online. Registration is free, enabling users to build lightboxes, order high-resolution files and access supplementary information. Further images from the Museum’s collection will be made available online at regular intervals as more of the archive is digitised.
By presenting this collection online, Images of Empire creates a valuable commercial resource for both professional picture buyers and academic researchers, and supports the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum in its mission to provide a national forum for preserving, exploring and studying Britain’s cultural heritage associated with the former Empire and today’s Commonwealth.
From my experience there, I’d say the collection is somewhat idiosyncratic. A lot of film footage of colonial officers and their pets, but lots of wonderful treasures as well. The point being that it is one of those collections that will probably work best for you if you are just curious and browsing around rather than if you are trying to find something specific.