We are excited to say that, thanks to the hard work of Richard, one of our volunteers, photographs of Battersea Polytechnic and Battersea College of Technology are now catalogued and the records are available on our online catalogue.
The photographs are an interesting mixture of buildings, academic departments and laboratories, and Battersea’s people including staff, students and the occasional member of the royal family! Although we do not know why most of these photographs were taken, it seems that many of them are official pictures, possibly taken by the press to mark an event or maybe even commissioned by the polytechnic.
Although a smaller collection than the University of Surrey photographs, these images presented a number of exciting challenges. Identifying buildings was the first. The front elevation of the Battersea Park Road building is very familiar to us and quite distinctive. But what about the back of it and what of the other sites in south west London? This was followed swiftly by the issue of identifying early 20th century labs and laboratory equipment. To the rescue came our volunteer, Richard. Not only did he attend Battersea and could therefore identify buildings with authority but, as an engineer, he was often able to look at a piece of equipment and make a pronouncement. We were also helped by previous captions. We haven’t managed to identify everything – you will find a number of references to laboratory equipment and an entire section of the catalogue is labelled as Battersea Polytechnic laboratories and lectures, which was as accurate as we could get! Many students remain to be identified too. But now we have a catalogue, our hope is that people using the photographs will be able to share their knowledge. We are also pondering how we might harness the knowledge of our former students to help us with this.
The photographs also raise interesting questions about the history of Battersea Polytechnic: why was there an annexe in Putney? How often did the Princess Royal visit? The answers lie within the archives and the memories of our former staff and students, and so one of our future tasks will be to research these areas and add this information to our catalogue.
We are now working on the MA dissertations and PhD theses which were written by Battersea students. Watch out for further blogs later this year and the release of the catalogue.