In Brief

Britain from above

Newly revealed collection of aerial images track more than six decades of change in Britain

A newly revealed collection of aerial images that track more than six decades of change in Britain is being hailed as a “historical Google Earth”.

Academics have painstakingly digitised a total of 1,500 images from original slides and negatives, all of which are now freely available on the Cambridge University Digital Library.

The photos selected for the pilot scheme were whittled down from a total of almost half a million.

The collection dates back to 1945, with the earlier images taken “by former wartime RAF pilots at the instruction of the Cambridge archaeologist Kenneth St Joseph”, adds The Guardian. In 1965, the university bought its own plane, a Cessna Skymaster, which was then flown across Britain taking high-resolution photos.

“This is sort of like a historical Google Earth,” Cambridge archaeology professor Martin Millett told the newspaper.

“You’re seeing fascinating changes in the city and the landscape in the period the photographs were taken. There’s a social modern history about industrialisation and agricultural change.”

In an article accompanying the release of the images, geography professor Tom Spencer said that the “fantastic” archive reveals “coastal change, discoveries of archaeological sites and the pre-and post-industrial landscapes of Britain”.

“We are sure that the collection will be of interest to a very wide audience in academia, interested amateurs and the general public,” he added.

The library ultimately aims to digitise the entire 497,079-strong collection.

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