Thousands of Photos Digitised for Express & Star

  • 5th April 2019

The Wolverhampton Express & Star newspaper recently announced the launch of its on-line archive of digitised images from its vast collection of photographs produced in a pioneering partnership between the Express & Star, the University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton City Archives and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

RT Bearings, Brierley Hill, 1984

Amazingly, the original archive contains over 1,000,000 photographic prints, dating from the 1970s to 1995 and the advent of the digital age and the move away from film to digital imagery. They provide an incredible insight into the industrial and social history of the Black Country and West Midlands and a world that may have faded away but is still within living memory for many.


For a number of years investigations were undertaken as to how to make this valuable photographic history more accessible. Working with the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton Archives, the Express & Star obtained £60,000 for Heritage Lottery Fund to catalogue, preserve, and digitise 3,000 images in a first tranche.


Because of our reputation and expertise in archival digital photography, handling and storage of original archives, and having dedicated and fully equipped darkroom facilities, the Express & Star approached WAAS to see if our in-house archival photography team could digitise their precious archives and we were delighted when we were selected to be part of the project.


The care and handling of the photographs was very important to the Express & Star team and, as we were able to offer the best in archival storage and digitisation processes that use specialist digital cameras and not potentially damaging scanners, we were commissioned to digitally photograph the material. Around 3000 prints were transported to us in two batches during 2017 and 2018, digitised, and converted to the web-ready images seen on the website today. As well as the picture side, the reverse of each print was imaged as well to record the written information, news cuttings, and notes recorded there to give context to each picture.


John France, Senior Archival Photographer, said, “It was fascinating to work on this collection and to see such a fine record of the industrial landscape of the Black Country during the period. It is a great archive and there are some wonderful pictures, so we really enjoyed working on it. The feedback we got was that they were really pleased with the quality of the images we managed to achieve.”


In all we produced around 6000 high resolution, archival quality, digital images of photographic prints from the Express & Star library with smaller, web-ready copies of those images being sent to Orangeleaf, a company supplying software and web development solutions to the heritage sector. Alongside creating and supplying images of the necessary quality, we also liaised closely with all partners during the project to ensure a successful outcome. If you would like to explore this fascinating archive yourself and see the images brought together in this important project they can be searched online at

The Express & Star is one of many external agencies that WAAS Digital, our digitisation team, have worked with over the years making good use of our experience and expertise in  safely handling and digitising a wide variety of archival materials from paper and prints to photographic slides and audio tape. If you have valuable archives of your own that you would like to preserve and perhaps share with the world like the Express & Star, whether it be one item or thousands, then get in touch, we’d be happy to chat with you.

Cannock, 1980

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