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The visual history of space: a new system to visualize images

Posted on 27 June 2018


The Historical Archives of the European Union is implementing a new interface to better visualize its photographic material paying particular attention to a better user experience for researchers. 

The new system allows users to preview the digital images and access key facts about the original photograph and its origins in addition to the content description. This includes physical details of the original documents, such as format, type of audio-visual document and materials, as well as production context, which includes title and place.

The interface is being tested using a series of photos from the European Launcher Development Organisation (ELDO) and the European Space Agency (ESA) historical archives. The ELDO and ESA fonds include visually stunning images of rocket launches, space centers and the rocket construction process. These images can now be previewed in our database using the new system.

By providing users with these additional details, they can gain better insight not only into the historical events depicted and the physical characteristics of the original document, but also into the production context of the material. This adds vital details to the description and thereby fosters a more critical and richer reading of the visual document.

The photos, on which this system is being tested, include images from the Europa-1 rocket launch from Woomera, Australia [pictured above] and those from the launch of Ariane 1 from Kourou French Guiana. Additionally it includes photos from a series of space centers all around the world including Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana, the Fortaleza Station in Brazil and the Villafranca Station in Spain.

More photos from these fonds can be found in our holdings.