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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Showcasing Britain From Above - Itea and Biscuits Getting To Grips With Modern Technology

Natasha Scullion, the Britain From Above officer, busy helping visitors access the website. 21 September 2012 at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
On Friday, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales opened its doors to welcome the participants of the first Itea and Biscuits session. This was a nationwide event devised by Age UK and its counterparts Age Cymru, Age NI and Age Scotland, to help members of the older generation get to grips with modern technology. The week-long event, hosted by various organisations across the country offered a range of sessions focusing on things such as: how to send a text message, how to use a smart phone and how to get the most from the internet.

The Royal Commission decided to join in and offer people the opportunity to get a more in-depth look at one of its online projects. Britain from Above is an online resource, made possible by the partnership of RCAHMW, RCAHM Scotland (RCAHMS) and English Heritage and is currently conserving, digitising and displaying images from the Aerofilms collection. The partnership, using money from the Heritage Lottery Fund bought the entire archive of Aerofilms Ltd, an aerial photography company that had been in operation from 1919 to 2006, and is currently working to preserve the very earliest part of the collection, 1919-1953.

The pictures have been conserved at the archive of English Heritage and their digitised forms are beginning to be made available online. So far the Britain from Above website has over 16,000 images, but by the end of the project, in 2014, all 95,000 images in this part of the collection will be able to be viewed by everyone free of charge.

The Britain From Above website successfully accessed.

Britain from Above is not just for looking at spectacular pictures though, the website is entirely interactive and all users are encouraged to take part, by commenting on images, identifying unlocated images and sharing any local knowledge and reminiscences.

The session on Friday was a taster of just how much the website has to offer. Beginning with a presentation about the project there was a detailed slide show, giving a step-by-step guide to how to use the website and get the most from it. All the features were demonstrated and discussed; showing just how much can be done on the site.

Ten people from the local community came along and joined in; each were given a pack of information about the website and the Royal Commission, including a copy of the step-by-step guide. Armed with a range of computers, from a library desktop to laptops and even an iPad, everyone launched into an exploration of the site. They were all impressed with the range of photographs available so far, especially some of the images of Aberystwyth hosted on the site, and particularly one of the National Library of Wales in 1932, long before it was surrounded by university buildings, this provoked a lively discussion. Visitors commented on how easy the site was to navigate and some people managed to find their home towns the way they had remembered them years previously. Keen to join in, the group made profiles, which enabled them to start accessing all the features  of the site, such as joining groups, commenting and deciding to ‘love’ images - the direct way to draw attention to your favourite image as it becomes part of the homepage show reel for a while!

Once visitors were satisfied they had got to grips with the website they were excited to show it off at home or in a library with other friends,  it was decided everyone had certainly earned their free tea and biscuits!

Discussions in the coffee room were full of what they wanted to find next and who they wanted to show the website off to first. Everyone agreed that it had been a very helpful session to get them acquainted with Britain from Above and they were  all certainly looking forward to exploring more heritage websites in the future.

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