Rare snapshots of the past

Local Studies Librarian John Merriman: He has called the collection a librarian's dream.
Local Studies Librarian John Merriman: He has called the collection a librarian's dream.
A photo from the 'Australian Football Factory'.

A photo from the 'Australian Football Factory'.

Blue Mountains Library recently acquired the historic Souvenir Snapshots collection of 14,000 negatives; one of the largest photographic collections any library has secured.

The images were captured by Katoomba's Souvenir Snapshots photographic studio in the 1950s and 1960s and depict people in the Blue Mountains at work, play and in celebration.

Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill described the collection as a "treasure trove of Blue Mountains history".

"The Souvenir Snapshots collection is a unique resource for the Blue Mountains community and an unparalleled tool for researchers, historians and anyone curious about Blue Mountains life."

Local Studies Librarian John Merriman has the task of assessing, conserving, identifying, dating and indexing the incredible images. He called the collection a librarian's dream.

"There are things here that throw direct light on the events and the people of the Blue Mountains over a generation ago," said Mr Merriman.

He has found some particularly intriguing images, such has six photos showing men and women cutting, stitching and sewing leather footballs in a corrugated iron building. The negatives are titled 'the Australian Football Factory'.

"There is no record of any such place in Katoomba or the Blue Mountains or anywhere else, but there they are - photos of working people at their jobs, much of it hard, repetitive manual labour," said Mr Merriman.

"Photos like this are so rare because in the past they were not considered worth recording and of no interest to anyone. But times change and they now shed a powerful light on the past, showing us how ordinary people lived."

With the collection now in the care of council, it is hoped the community will share their knowledge.

Mr Merriman said: "Once the images are digitised people can view them online and identify faces and places. People at a hotel dinner party begin to have names and sooner or later those football workers will be revealed."

This process has already begun, with a train buff identifying the location of a derailment that had not been recorded until now.

Cr Greenhill said: "It is wonderful that we can house this unique collection in the Blue Mountains Library where it will be accessible to all. It is especially meaningful that this collection, created here in the Blue Mountains, will remain in the Blue Mountains. Council is proud to preserve it and make it accessible for generations to come."

With 14,000 images, the process of curating the collection will take time, but the research value of the collection is priceless. View the images at: tinyurl.com/24vcek4t.