BT Portrait of a City Launches

An in-depth picture of Derry~Londonderry has begun to take shape. Donate your own photographs and films

Every city has its own story to tell. Derry~Londonderry’s is more compelling than most. Arguably the birthplace of both the Troubles and the Peace Process, the city has a rich cultural and industrial past, played a key role in Second World War, and in the story of emigration from the island of Ireland.

BT Portrait of a City is a hugely ambitious project to compile one of the largest digital community archives ever put together. Once completed, it will leave a rich legacy for future generations to explore, painting an in-depth study of the city’s rich past.

The team, based at the Rath Mor Centre in Creggan, are gathering photographs and other archive material from across the city, which is being digitised for the collection. The public response to the project has already been overwhelming, with thousands of pictures scanned and digitised and added to the growing collection.

Culture Company 2013 Chief Executive Shona McCarthy said: 'Often the lesser told stories or those that happen in the margins can give a richer sense of the depth and colour of a people and its place. This project gives the city's citizens the chance to share images and stories of their own lives and place, not just for the people who live here, but for the world to see and admire.'

The archive will be compiled not just from old family photographs, which may not have seen the light of day for decades. Unique and rarely seen material from the photographic archives of Libraries NI, Derry City Council, local newspapers, Guildhall Press and National Museums Northern Ireland will also be digitised and made available to the public for the first time.

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Carál Ní Chuilín added: 'Archives are an important way of remembering and recording the past. It is the communities and the people within them that tell the stories and make up the history of a place. Through contributing photographs, documents and artefacts you can help tell the important story of all the people who live and have lived here.'

BT Portrait of a City project manager Kirsty Osborn says that the collection will present a very different picture of the city than the world is used to seeing.

'People will be familiar with scenes of Derry~Londonderry, particularly many of the images which were taken in the city during the height of the Troubles. What we are finding are pictures which were being taken by the people living there at the time, just getting on with their lives while these events where happening around them.'

As well as gathering the archive material, the BT Portrait of a City team is delivering a series of digital training schemes, which will cover basic photographic scanning to advanced editing techniques.

Libraries NI has embraced the project, and the five libraries in the Western Education and Library Board Area – Central, Shantallow, Creggan, Waterside and Strathfolye – are all acting as drop-off points for photographs from the public.

For further information on the project, how to contribute your photographs or attend a workshop, please visit the Portrait of a City website.

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