Monday, 23 November 2009

TARA releases World War Two aerial photos online

From the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland:

Hidden secrets found as new aerial website launches

Aerial photographs of prisoners in the central courtyard of Colditz high security prison and POWs working on the infamous bridge over the River Kwai, along with images taken during the post D-Day battle for Normandy and the Suez Crisis of 1956, are now available to view for the first time.

The photographs were discovered as part of a painstaking process of cataloguing and digitising imagery from The Aerial Reconnaissance Archives (TARA) for the new National Collection of Aerial Photography website, which launches today. TARA is made up tens of millions of Allied and German aerial intelligence photographs dating from the Second World War onwards, but only a small percentage has so far been catalogued and digitised. Discovering exactly what the films contain is an ongoing task requiring in-depth detective work.

Manager of the National Collection of Aerial Photography, Allan Williams said: “We are uncovering new images every day, but to locate photographs with such powerful links to major events is incredibly exciting. Without doubt, we’ll continue to make amazing discoveries. The amount of reconnaissance photography taken during and since the Second World War is astonishing. It provides us quite literally with a new perspective on historical events – from the air.”

The launch of the new website is integral to the RCAHMS conservation plan for TARA, which includes further research and progressive digitisation for display online, as well as storing and preserving the original materials for public access.

The National Collection of Aerial Photography website is free to browse, although in-depth viewing requires a subscription, currently £15 for two years. It also offers search and image purchase services. A dedicated search room has also been set up at RCAHMS Edinburgh headquarters for people wishing to carry out their own research.

To view the collection, visit

* Incidentally, just to show how ludicrous the BBC is becoming these days with regards to its policy on advertising - the Corporation tonight broadcast a news feature several minutes long on the remarkable new aerial collection that had gone online. Not once, however, did it mention the RCAHMS, or TARA, or even provide a URL for the site. In other words, we will tell you about this remarkable new facility, we just won't tell you where to find it. Completely ludicrous.

But forget about the BBC's failings - go visit the site!

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