As Blackpool Council’s Heritage Service we collect, preserve and make available materials that represent the wide, often wonderful, and sometimes weird history of Blackpool. From books by local and national authors on all areas of our history, to documentary sources such as newspapers and registers, from corporation archives to the entertainment and tourism history of the town, our collection covers it all.
We are constantly trying to make Blackpool’s collections more accessible to people and also continue to acquire items that tell our story. The journey an item or object makes before it finds its way into a public collection can be a long one, but each has its own story. Here are a few examples of collections that have recently found a home in Blackpool’s collections:
Jeff Wilkinson Postcards
Postcards were a defining part of the visitor experience at the seaside and in Blackpool the industry around postcards was huge. While we already had a very good and extensive postcard collection, we were very keen to accept the donation of nine albums of postcards from Jeff Wilkinson. While he lived in the area he worked in the collectable and antiques trade and collected postcards depicting the coast from Rossall to the Pleasure Beach. Due to the importance of this collection and the potential ways it could be used by schools we travelled down to the midlands to meet Jeff and accept his kind donation.
With this addition we now have three quite large postcard collections, and as such we don’t collect or accept postcard donations unless they are a rare example of an image or event we don’t have in the collection, or have a message on the back which is unique and adds to our knowledge of Blackpool.
The Victorian equivalent of the stuffed animal you get at the fair, Fairings are small china ornaments that depict humorous, political, or domestic scenes and often come with a caption like “Last one to bed puts out the lights” or “The Wedding Night". Until recently we had no examples of these in the collections. For collectors of fairings there are certain makers and marks and rarities that are sought out, and it is a highly collectable area. For us, however, the donation of 11 fairings was not about the type, make or rarity of the objects themselves, but a way of preserving the heritage of going to the fair and fairground, an insight into the experience and how it relates to us today. The fairings were donated by Elaine Smith.
Photographs of the Hawker Hunter
This recent donation of two photographs from the Hawker Aircraft company show a stage in the development of the Hawker Hunter plane in the 1950s at Blackpool Airport. Both are signed by the pilot Donald Lacey. The notes on the back of the photograph state that it is an attempt at getting the Hawker Hunter to break the sound barrier in 1953. The Hawker Hunter went on to be sold around the world.
A small selection of 21 glass negatives of mostly Blackpool scenes. These have been a lovely addition to our image library. They are still in processing awaiting digitisation, but include a more social perspective with people enjoying the town and experiencing a Victorian holiday.
Behind the scenes we continue with the help of dedicated volunteers to sort, preserve and, most importantly, list our collections so that eventually we can create a search portal on our website and people everywhere can, if they wish to, search the contents of the collections. Due to the size of our collections, however, this is some time away.
It is also one of the reasons we don’t take everything we are offered. We assess whether it fits with our collection development policy, and what potential there is for both research and teaching using the collection. If we feel we are not the most appropriate place we make suggestions for other possible homes.
Blackpool Heritage Service Team