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Flicking through the past makes history on 'Flickr'

The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) made history today by making photographic collections available via social networking.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010

PRONI is the first Northern Ireland heritage institution to make such collections available on Flickr. Over fifty years of wedding and family portraits, taken between 1900 and 1952, have been brought back to life and made available online, using the photo-sharing website

Speaking today about the new resource, Aileen McClintock, Director of PRONI said: “This is a tremendous resource for anybody interested in local history, genealogy and even the changing fashions in bridal wear. These photographs are particularly culturally rich for those who have family connections in County Armagh and South Down and also in County Monaghan in the Irish Republic.”

The photos are being transferred from fragile glass plate negatives which were commonly used by photographers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, prior to the advent of photographic film.

Aileen commented: “It is a further milestone in this digital age to see that images created using such old technology can be revived in a totally new format and be made available to anybody at home through the click of a mouse.”

To date around 200 digital images have been made available, with more being added over the coming weeks until all 1,530 images are posted on the site. Visitors to the website will be able to browse through the images alphabetically, by family surname.

The online images are the product of a year-long project undertaken by PRONI to arrange, list, re-box and digitise the original glass plate negatives. This will enhance the collection of key resources which PRONI has already made available online, including street directories and wills indexes.

The online services strive to ensure that those researching local or family history during the PRONI move to new accommodation at Titanic Quarter still have rich sources, literally, ‘at their fingertips’.

Notes to editors:

  1. The photographs were taken between 1900 and 1952 by the Allison Photographic Studios in Armagh.
  2. Photographer Herbert Thackwray Allison, was born in Bradford in 1854. He and his brother came to Ireland in 1881 and set up a photographic business, trading as Allison & Allison, in Belfast, where they had branches at Donegall Square North and Queen's Arcade. Towards the end of the century, as the art and practice of taking photographs developed and expanded, the Allisons spotted a niche in the market outside Belfast and set about establishing country branches in Dundalk (1896), Armagh (1900), Newry, (1903) and Warrenpoint (1905). It was the Armagh office which became the hub of the enterprise and was generally regarded as the headquarters until it was sold to Ernest Scott in 1952. The Armagh studio became the final repository for the surviving glass-plate negatives from all four provincial branches before their transfer to PRONI by Mr Scott.
  3. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) is a division of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and is the official archive for Northern Ireland. It aims to identify and preserve records of historical, social and cultural importance and make them available for the information, education and enjoyment of the public.
  4. PRONI closed to the public at its Balmoral Avenue site on 3 September 2010 as it began moving 40 kilometres of archives to new premises at Titanic Quarter. The new state-of-the art building is due to open to the public in April 2011.
  5. Flickr (www.flickr.com) is an online photo management and photo sharing application. Anyone with internet access can view the photographs posted on Flickr or, should they wish, they can create a free account to comment on the photographs they view, or to upload pictures to their own Flickr ‘photostream’.
  6. Institutions which already have Flickr photostreams for various digital images from their collections include The National Archives in London, The Library of Congress, the Imperial War Museum and the National Galleries of Scotland
  7. Visit http://www.proni.gov.uk/pronionflickr to view more of the photographs which were taken between 1900 and 1952 by the Allison Photographic Studios in Armagh.
  8. For further information contact the Communications Office, Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Tel (028) 9051 5047 or email: communications@dcalni.gov.uk