An exciting photograph archive, containing 2.6 million images from Longford and Ireland dating from the 1950s is now available for everyone to access online.
The sixty years of Irish history captured on the site includes many fascinating images of key events such as visits from The Beatles, Princess Grace, Muhammad Ali and John F. Kennedy but more importantly for Susan Kennedy, who took over the archive in 1995, it features images of everyday life.
“What I feel makes it even more valuable, historically speaking, are the images of day-to-day Irish life – street scenes, dog shows, weddings, communions, office presentations and family portraits,” Susan told the Leader.
Lensmen Press and Public Relations Photographic Agency was set up in Dublin in 1952 by Andy Farren and Padraig MacBrien. Over the years they built an archive of over 2.6 million negatives. In 1995, Susan Kennedy took over the business and the archive.
Since then, Susan has been running the photographic agency and the business continues to grow. Last year the significant task of digitising the collection began. Up until then, the archive had been relatively untouched.
“The hope is that over sixty years of work and sixty years of Irish life will be made accessible to everyone through the website and it will preserve this vast, historically important, collection for generations to come,” Susan added.
Tara Keown, who is managing the archive, said it’s a huge undertaking digitising the archive. “A typical day consists of scanning negatives. There are approximately 2.6 million in the archive so it’s a huge project. All the negatives from the 1950s are glass; the sixties, seventies and a significant chunk of the 1980s are black and white and after that colour predominates.
“If we’re not scanning negatives we are editing, captioning and ‘cleaning’ them, which means photo-shopping out dust or scratches and then we upload them to our website,” Tara said.
Tara also deals on a daily basis with enquiries from the public looking for images of relatives from various events throughout the years, newspapers (both national and international) looking for images to accompany stories, publishers who need images to illustrate books, many curators of photographic exhibitions and people simply ordering images they have found through the website.
“The digitisation of the archive is a monumental task and there is a huge amount of work still to be done but the satisfaction you get from making these magnificent images available to the public is lovely,” Tara added.
“The knowledge that this task of preservation will stop history from slowly decaying on a shelf is wholly rewarding and I feel privileged to be involved.”
At present, there appears to be very few images relating directly to Longford on the website but as the Irish Photo Archive are currently seeking assistance in identifying the locations and the names of individuals captured in their vast archives, there is no saying what you might discover on a trawl through the website.
The website can be found at www.irishphotoarchive.ie. If anyone discovers someone they can identify in a photograph on the site, they can contact Tara on firstname.lastname@example.org.