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Ally Pally expands its digital archive

@Mark Auer

London’s Alexandra Palace has just doubled its digital archive. More than 1,000 documents including a huge collection of postcards, prints and posters are now available online.

First opened in 1873, Alexandra Palace is a cultural venue located between Wood Green and Muswell Hill, North London. It is known for having been the main transmitting centre for the BBC from 1936 to 1949.

The full archive is composed of around 8,000 documents and covers from 1859 to 2017. Digitisation started in 2016 in partnership with Google Arts and Culture, who provided specialist scanning equipment and professional expertise, supported by volunteers.

Regeneration Manager Kirsten Forrest considers the digitisation of the archive as a way to make the palace more widely known.

“We are trying to create something that brings free access to the history of Alexandra Palace and Park, a resource both for local people and for a more widespread audience.

“What we are doing is closely linked to the idea of democratisation of information: all the materials are available to everyone. It also implies that the archive belongs to the people.”

The archive includes documents from the First World War and from the BBC. According to Keith Sagar, one of the eight volunteers who have been working on the project, the Television Archive is the most interesting part of the collection.

“There are designs for broadcasts from the 1930s, hand annotated scripts and photographs. You can see the very start of television here. And since it is not official record, it gives you an idea of the people behind the organisation, makes them real”, he said.

Ms Forrest feels that the reason why the archive is so fascinating is the vivid sense of connection to the past it creates.

“It represents an era that has disappeared and at the same time the cradle of the technology and the communication that we now take for granted.”

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