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As well as documentary sources, the use of visual images can provide an extremely useful source to the local historian or archaeologist. Photography grew from its early origins in the 1840s and as technology improved over time more professional photographers began to meet the demand. In 1884, the introduction of George Eastman’s box camera made photography more widely available to the amateur. Photographs provide an invaluable source. They can record a moment in time although most early photographs had to be staged due to the need for long exposure times. However, what is in the background is often as important to the historian than the staged subject. Several early collections survive for Oxfordshire and many remain in private hands.

The moving image through film and video is the more recent addition. Whether through home movies, formal documentaries or fictional film, the capturing of the local environment ‘on location’ is an ingredient worthy of examination to the historian. Although care has to be taken, films such as ‘The Tawny Pipit’ (1944) that was filmed on location in Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire and on a set near Burford can provide with useful historical evidence with careful interpretation. Others, such as the factual ’24 Square Miles’ (1946) can not only provide such evidence but also the prevailing sentiments of the day.

Non technical images can be much older. Paintings, sketches, postcards and ephemera can all provide essential sources for historical study.  

For example, the Bodleian's collections of drawings by John Buckler (1770-1851) and his son, John Chessell Buckler (1793-1894) are an invaluable source for the pre-restoration of buildings, particularly churches.


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