Treasures of the archive – unseen Covent Garden

I have been working in the archive for almost 15 years and I never get tired of looking at old photographs or discovering new treasures!

One of our photographers, the late Anthony Kersting, sadly died just before I moved to the Berlin office but he left behind a most amazing body of work. We had worked with him for a few years already and now have the entire colour archive in our head office in Berlin where it can be stored and archived in museum conditions and therefore be kept safe and useable for generations to come.

I have been working my way through boxes of images, removing old sleeves, cleaning the film, putting the mostly large-format transparencies in new sleeves and archival boxes. The work is fairly repetitive but strangely soothing and it feels good to be working on physical images and making sure the collections survives in good shape and order.

Anthony Kersting lived in South West London all his life and so the London photographs were the first I put my attention to. Having lived there myself for 20 years, I loved looking at the transparencies, delving into a past time of gloriously empty streets and faded colour. Cars usually date the images as well as buildings we know are no longer there or streets that look very different today. One of the most amazing transformations took place around King’s Cross – I found a whole series of photos taken from the same vantage point and they really show the change!

Sometimes I find old stamps on re-used envelopes and in the London A-C box, there was an innocuous looking envelope that just said Covent Garden Market on it. Inside, however were colour images of Covent Garden Market in its fruit and vegetable market days – all from the 1960s. I was truly amazed and it looked like the images had never been out of their sleeves – I was so excited that I took the images straight to be archived and scanned.

These are the treasures that make working in an archive so worthwhile, especially where there is analogue material to be touched and discovered – I hope we will never lose sight of that!