Decolonisation and Digitalisation of a Historical Caribbean Aerial Photograph Collection

by Dr Thera Edwards, The Map and Image Library, The UWI Mona

The Map and Image Library of the Department of Geography and Geology received a collection of some ten thousand aerial photographs of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s Commonwealth Caribbean from Royal Holloway College of the University of London in the summer of 2016 (see Edwards and McGregor, 2019).

Flight coverage plan for islands of the Lesser Antilles

The collection includes countries on mainland South America (Belize and Guyana) and extends to Cayman in the Northern Caribbean. Barbados is excluded as it seems to have become separated from the corpus. Since acquisition, the twenty shipping cartons holding individual photograph boxes containing aerial photographs have been assessed for mould infestation and general condition, sorted by territory and year and the photograph boxes inventoried in Excel. A complete listing by individual photograph has not yet been completed.

Typical aerial photograph box from collection

The next steps to make the collection more physically accessible and improve storage conditions include the acquisition of acid-free archival boxes and new exhibit quality display cabinets. Notwithstanding improved physical storage the age of the photographs and their less than optimal storage conditions over time make digitalisation an urgent priority. Digitalization efforts are being supported by the University of Glasgow (U of G) through the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research, a joint initiative of U of G and The University of the West Indies.[1] Digitalization will include the capture of information from finding aids accompanying the boxes, recording box details as well as scanning and documenting individual photographs in the boxes. The Department of Information Studies at U of G has developed a prototype catalogue structure to capture all associated information. The U of G Library and Historic Environment Scotland are providing advice on the schema to be used which is expected to be based on ISAD-G.[2] This will enable the finding aids to be linked to the images, and retain the archival hierarchy.

The final stages of digitalization will include the assignment of latitude and longitude geotags and the development of photograph footprints on world maps to enable online search and access to the collection.


Edwards, T and D. McGregor (2019). Applications of a historical collection of aerial photographs as a teaching and research resource: Case studies of Montserrat and Grand Cayman. Caribbean Geography, 24, 62-81.

#Aerial Photographs, #ISAD-G, #Map and Image Library, #University of Glasgow, #UWI



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.