Monday 29 December 2014

PRONI merges archival and modern photos of Belfast

A series of archival photos of Belfast, taken at the turn of the 20th century, have been merged with pictures of the same locations in the present day. The photos can be viewed on the Flickr feed of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

The idea was developed during PRONI’s preservation week, which took place in the first half of December, as a new way of presenting the archives. PRONI's Sam Crombie explains: “We had so many brilliant photographs of street scenes in the collections, we wondered what it would be like to go out and take them again today, and put the two side by side.” The results are striking.

“Paradoxically, the two things that people have noticed are the similarities and the differences," he says. "They show how much things have changed in the past hundred years, but also how much they have stayed the same. The streets and buildings are still there for the most part, and it’s still Belfast, but the life around them is almost unrecognisable.

“Looking at the photographs, the biggest change is transport. Boats and trams have been replaced by cars and buses, and the infrastructure of the city has evolved with this. Cobbled streets have given way to roads, tram tracks are now bus lanes.”

The PRONI team has had plenty of feedback. "People have their own favourites," says Sam. "But the most popular seems to be the photo of Queen’s Bridge. However, it is the scene that has probably changed the least over the last 100 years.”

These photographs (which feature Queens Bridge c1888, City Hall c1914, Shankill Road Mission c1910, May Street Market Street 11th Feb 1915, Linen Hall Library c1902, Castle Place c1880-1900, Cavehill Road Antrim Road c1915 and Cromac Square Cromac Place 11 Feb 1915) are the latest addition to PRONI's growing online archive of images, which includes thousands of photos from several collections.