files/institute/Image One.png

HEIR – the Historic Environment Image Resource

To join our tagging project and to upload our rephotography app, go to To search our on-line database of images, go to To keep up-to-date with our project, lectures and activities, go to our blog at

This project unlocks the research potential of historic lantern-slide and glass plate photographs. Bringing together scholars, software developers and a world-wide community of 'citizen scientists', this digitizing and crowd-sourcing initiative aims to keyword and identify old photos of monuments, landscapes and environments taken across the world and to re-photograph their modern settings.

Pompeii 1933 (photographer: Beatrice Blackwood) and 2013 (photographer: Charlotte Robinson)

files/institute/Image Two-1.png


The project will create a world-wide accessible, interdisciplinary research resource which will provide a greater understanding of all aspects of society and the environment in disciplines as varied as anthropology, archaeology, art history, economics, geography, geology, heritage conservation, history, politics, and tourism.

The resource

Between c.1880 and c.1950, the University of Oxford amassed an extensive collection of original high-resolution lantern and glass slide photographs. They form an exceptional visual record of people, places, expeditions, and events from all over the world.

These photographs provide the starting point for our project. A century on, they offer new data to help researchers understand some of the most pressing current research issues, from environmental and climate change to human impact on the planet. They also generate huge cultural and personal interest worldwide.

Naples: hand painted lantern slide, 19th century

files/institute/Image Three.png

Digitizing is only the beginning. Such a huge dataset is only useful if it can be classified and sorted to help researchers find what they are looking for, whatever their specialism – which could be anything from cliff erosion, old cars, women’s costume, lichen growing on gravestones, or the history of tourism…  if the classifications are sufficiently detailed, the resource becomes far more accessible to a wider range of scholars.

Congregationalist Chapel, Witney, Oxfordshire 1932 (demolished 1969) Photographer: Stuart Piggott

files/institute/Image Four.png

Detailed keywording of each image cannot be done by a computer programme, and is too big a job for our volunteers and researchers to do on their own. With the help of the Citizen Science Alliance, we will be enlisting people world-wide to help us research and keyword our images and share in the excitement of discovery via a purpose-built internet platform.

files/institute/Image Five.png

We want to find out what has happened to the places pictured in our historic environment photographic collection. How have they changed over time? Have buildings been restored, damaged or destroyed? How have the landscapes around them changed? Again we are calling on Citizen Scientists to help us locate sites, re-photograph them in their modern settings, and map their distribution by using a specifically tailored mobile app.

Cliff erosion, Brittany, France. Late 19th century lantern slide: photographer unknown

files/institute/Image Six.png

The data provided will form the core of a massive interdisciplinary database supplying information on changing monuments, landscapes, and environments. It will allow researchers and the public to look at and study the impact of time, nature, people, and to have a conversation about the future.

Touat settlement, Tunisia, c.1895. Photographer: J.N.L. Myres

files/institute/Image Seven.png


Research and activities

  • Being Human: Festival of the Arts and Humanities 2014
  • Ashmolean LiveFriday: Social Animals 2015 


  • Sally Crawford and Katharina Ulmschneider. "HEIR: A New Interdisciplinary Source for the Study of Global Childhood in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries." Childhood in the Past 2015; 8(1), 5-23.
  • Sally Crawford, Katharina Ulmschneider and Janice Kinory, “New perspectives on the archaeology of children and childhood from the Historic Environment Image Resource” Oxford University Press Handbook of the Archaeology of Childhood forthcoming

Lectures and presentations

  • ‘Victorians and Edwardians in Search of the Past’, a week-long slide exhibition in the Atrium, Ashmolean Museum ( 
  • ‘Snow and Camels’, ‘Egyptomania’ Exhibitions and Photo-booth at two Live Fridays, Ashmolean Museum
  • ‘The Shock of the Old – Computer Tagathon’ at the Institute of Archaeology (
  • ‘From London to Constantinople – a Victorian lantern slide performance’ at St Margaret’s Institute, Oxford 
  • ‘Visualizing Urban Change: The Historic Environment Image Resource’. International Conference on Negotiating Change in Urban Spaces, Oxford University, 24 June 2015
  • ‘Living Off the Romans: Professional Photographers in the 19th and 20th centuries’. North America Theoretical Archaeology Group, New York University, USA, 23 May 2015
  • ‘The HEIR Project: Old Images for Modern Geographers’. Oxford University Geography Society, 30 April 2015
  • ‘Living off the Romans in the 19th and 20th Centuries’. Roman Discussion Forum, Oxford University, 25 February 2015
  • ‘The HEIR Project: A Potted History’. Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group, University of Sheffield, 27 Sept. 2014
  • ‘A Forgotten Archive: early Photographs of Oxfordshire from the late 19th and early 10th centuries’. South Oxfordshire Archaeology Group, 25 Sept. 2014
  • ‘John Linton Myres in Greece: An early photographic record’. Greek Archaeology Group, University of Oxford, 15 May 2014
  • ‘An Unexpected story: late 19th and early 20th century photographs of children in field archaeologists’ records’, SSCIP 7th International Conference, Melbourne, Australia, March 201 
  • ‘The photograph of archaeologist Sir John Linton Myres: Greece before WW1’. Hellenic Museum, Melbourne, Australia, 27th March 2014

Contributors to the image collection

Institute of Archaeology, Oxford

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The Bodleian Library, Oxford

Department of Geography, Oxford

Department of the History of Art, Oxford

Harris Manchester College, Oxford

Matthew Jellings

Richard Logan

The HEIR team

Dr Sally Crawford 

Dr Katharina Ulmschneider

Dr Janice Kinory 

Roelie Reed

Project Advisory Board

Professor Chris Gosden Institute of Archaeology 

Dr Jas Elsner, Corpus Christi College, Oxford and the Department of Art History, The University of Chicago, USA

Dr Alison Roberts, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Dr Chris Lintott, Citizen Science Alliance

Professor Heather Viles, Department of Geography, Oxford

Ms Sue Bird, Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford

Professor Craig Clunas, Department of the History of Art, Oxford

Dr Victoria Brown, Department of the History of Art, Oxford

Dr Christine Madsen, Bodleain Libraries, Oxford

Dr Gillian Shepherd, The Trendall Centre, LaTrobe University, Melbourne, Australia


We are actively seeking partners in other institutions with collections of historic landscape images who would be interested in joining, advertising, enhancing, or linking their collections with this resource. 

The Oxford CSA web platform offers partners to enhance the teaching and research value of any digitized collections by

  • broadening keyword classifications of datasets for efficient, interdisciplinary data-mining
  • creating comparative modern landscape and monument re-photographs
  • disseminating knowledge of their resource
  • contributing to a world-wide resource-sharing initiative
  • helping to generate new collaborative research projects

Please contact the project directors:

Dr Sally Crawford F.S.A.

Senior Research Fellow

The Institute of Archaeology

Oxford OX1 2PG


Dr Katharina Ulmschneider F.S.A.

Senior Research Fellow

The Institute of Archaeology

Oxford OX1 2PG



Supported by

The Reva and David Logan Foundation, Chicago

The Citizen Science Alliance, Oxford-Chicago

The John Fell OUP Research Fund, Oxford

Grants - The Being Human Festival of the Arts and Humanities 2014

files/institute/Image Eight.png

School of Archaeology > Research > HEIR Project