Photographs in the Liverpool St Helens archive came from three different accessions. Initially, I gathered the photographs all together to look at their condition. Fortunately at Liverpool Record Office there is a Conservator and Conservation Assistant who were able to provide me with advice on caring for photographs, particularly in identifying mould, water damage and foxing. I knew that a number of the photographs had been stored in less than ideal conditions and was concerned that these had become mouldy. It was identified as foxing; small spotted stains thought to be caused by a variety of fungal growth. Sadly this is irreversible. I made digital copies and Conservation staff made archival pockets and boxes for the photographs, which are stored in an area of the repository where temperature and humidity are carefully controlled specifically for the preservation of photographs and negatives.
My next task was to sort and arrange the photographs by team and by year. I had a volunteer (Laura) working with me who had previous experience of handling photographs, so together we donned the gloves and took over the largest table in the Search room to bring order to the photographs. A number of albums were also deposited. As these were not acid free the photographs needed to be removed and repackaged. Laura also transcribed the captions onto acid free paper. One of the albums had photographs glued onto the pages and covered with sticky film. There was a danger of damaging the photographs if they were removed, so each page of the album was digitised (thanks Laura!)
There were a small number of photographs with no date written on them and nothing to identify the year in question. For the earlier team photographs I looked at the kit and the players themselves to see if I could find the same distinctive player with the interesting facial hair or scowl in a photograph with a date attached. I was lucky enough to be able to put an approximate date on several photographs.
For the later, colour photographs I used social media. LSH have a twitter account with followers including current and past players. I have been posting images from the archive on a fairly regular basis. At first this generated little interest, but once I started asking for help with identifying a year or the name of the big, shiny cup in the middle of the team, responses started flooding in. People posted brief reminiscences of the match or team in question. I was given names of players, locations and the year the big, shiny Lancashire Cup was won! Many thanks to everyone who helped with my pile of unknown photographs.
Vicki Caren, Project Archivist