Friday, 1 May 2015

Volunteers Blog - Christine

The Importance of Research

Heritage volunteer, Christine, talks us through some historical research. It is this type of information that really helps to bring a story alive!

"When I first joined the Winter's project as a  volunteer the area that had most appeal for me was that of historical research. The first step was to decide which line of enquiry to take. Since Winter's was such a well-established firm in Derby, items in local newspapers seemed the best path to follow. The newspaper of choice was the Derby Mercury, and the starting date the early 1850s.

It was not long before all kinds of articles appeared, effectively chronicling the history of Winter's since Walter Winter first took over. From the newspaper I learned that although Walter was evidently a very accomplished photographer, all had not run smoothly with his business. An illegally erected studio, a fire on the roof and a theft from the shop were just some of the incidents that were reported. On the plus side much was made of the success of the studio in staying abreast of innovations in photography . It was also apparent that some of the best known likenesses in Derby were captured in Winter's studios, from mayors to manufacturers. Some photographic portraits were enlarged and sometimes coloured by hand, while others remained small enough to wear in a locket. The sale of fine art products also boosted the funds, as did exhibitions of well-known paintings.

As well as all Walter's business interests, the newspapers made it apparent that he was highly involved in his local community. As with many Victorian gentlemen philanthropy and religion were both part of the picture.
And Walter's employees were not forgotten either, as the firm's first works outing illustrated, when the employees were taken off to the Peak District to enjoy walks, games of cricket and a high tea. As time went on the photographic business went from strength to strength with generations of Derby families turning up at Winter's to have their photos taken. Doubtless, like my own family, many others have a cache of Winter's photographs tucked away in drawers or albums, an archive which has built up over one and a half centuries. It is great to be part of this amazing project which is beginning to uncover just how much of Derby life W. W. Winter captured over the years."

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