In 1988 Barrington Weekes retired from professional photography and inherited two collections of photographs from Nicholas and Fay Horne and Eric Morison, both High Street photographers from the 1950s. His responsibility to care for and conserve this work, along with his own collection of work, led to the formation of a photographic archive.
Totnes Image Bank is a charitable trust set up in 1999. The Town Mill Trust provided the use of the first floor of a restored water mill a very reasonable lease with low costs. The mill has a display area of panels depicting the history of Totnes from Saxon times to the present day. The Image Bank moved in and adapted the exhibition space, building the first computer room plus a display area of historic photographs, all completed by volunteers in a weekend.
The Mitchell Trust helped us fund the purchase of the first Mac computer, scanner and laser printer plus Cumulus software. Start-up costs were about £1000. Within a very short space of time we were inundated with local people bringing in material either to donate to the print, slide and negative collections or for scanning and return to the owner. Print sales began to build up the income for future expansion. We sell laser prints in the Image Bank and online. All the management, scanning and database work is carried out by volunteers. It varies from time to time but there are about nineteen volunteers involved, managing public enquires, scanning and archiving negatives.
The original office ran out of space and another room on the same floor of the mill became available in 2008 with four times the amount of space. We have filled this space with new benches and work areas. In 2006 the Dartington Rural Archive closed and we took over 7000 35mm copy negatives and a card index. These negatives were farmed out to our professional photo printers for scanning. We then processed each digital scan and made a dedicated database with the information from the index cards. This took about a year to complete. When the DRA Trust was absorbed into the TIB Trust we inherited the residue of their funds and this paid for the commercial scanning. South Hams Newspapers, a local paper group, gave us 400,000 negatives all in soiled negative sheets and albums. Two volunteers have spent three years sorting and placing the negatives in new acid free negative sheets.
2007 brought the donation of 26 albums of photographs and paper cuttings from the late headmaster of Dartington Primary School, Bill Blinston. Each page has been scanned to original size, A3, and each album has been filed on the Blinston Albums database. In 2011 Chris Woodman donated the photographic work from his business. The most important find in this collection so far is about 1000 negatives relating to the Torbay Aircraft Museum that was based at Marldon, Paignton.
The Totnes database contains 26,000 images and the Rural Archive 7000. Other collections make up a total of 45,000 images. All original material is stored off site to minimise loss by fire etc. Files that are being worked on are drawn from the store and returned after use. Computers are backed up on a portable hard drives and kept off site.
In 2008 we changed the original display area to create a photographer’s environment. The old office has become a realistic darkroom and audio visual show. We continue to create new displays for the collection of old cameras and equipment. 2011 has a new display of small camera equipment including 3D photography from the 1900s. The future is as important as the past and we will provide exhibition space for current photographers to display their work at a reasonable cost.