About Hidden Histories

“The material of the Beaford Archive, belonging to its future and rooted in its past, is of and for North Devon in the most fundamental sense.” Founding Director John Lane, 1974

This is ours….

Hidden Histories is a three year project enabling unprecedented access to the Beaford Archive, a photographic record of people and community in rural north Devon containing more than 80,000 images covering the 120-year period from 1870 to 1990. According to the Royal Photographic Society, it is “…a unique body of work, unparalleled, at least in this country, for its scale and quality”.

Beaford Arts has secured funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a major conservation and digitisation exercise that will curate and publish online around 10,000 unseen images that together illustrate the late 20th Century social history of rural north Devon. Hidden Histories will include:

  • Digitising, cataloguing, archiving and publishing to the web approximately 10,000 existing 35mm black and white negatives from the James Ravilious and Roger Deakins Beaford Archives
  • Production of a new fully searchable website to provide a showcase for existing digitised work, newly digitised images and audio, and new work as it is produced
  • A programme of oral history, learning and community activity which will create new work and engage people in learning and education

Between now and 2019, this website will document and share the goings on of this project, from digital scans of the newly discovered archive photos and the oral history recordings of the people they depict, to the new art work this collection has inspired from the schools and communities we are working with.

The Archive’s beginning can be dated to 1971, when cinematographer Roger Deakins spent a year taking photographs around north Devon. He went on to study at the National Film School and at Beaford he was followed by the appointment of photographer James Ravilious in 1972.

For seventeen years James Ravilious documented the people and places of North Devon, amassing a collection of over 78,000 images. James Ravilious lived in the community he photographed, and was trusted to photograph all aspects of local life. In addition, working closely with his colleague George Tucker, he built what they called the ‘Old Archive’: over 5,000 copy photographs dated between 1870 and 1940, borrowed from local people.

To see digital scans of the 1700 negatives which James Ravilious regarded as his finest work go to www.beaford-arts.org.uk/archive where you can also purchase high quality prints of these. Beaford Arts is England’s longest running rural arts initiative and works in communities across north Devon to deliver a programme of high quality arts events. For information and tickets go to www.beaford-arts.org.uk.