The unveiling ceremony of the statue of St Michael and the Devil by sculptor Jacob Epstein at Coventry Cathedral (photograph: John Lang)
Coventry Digital is an online resource about the city of Coventry. It was created and is maintained by Coventry University as part of its commitment to Coventry UK City of Culture in 2021 (UK CoC 2021).
The ambition is to create a ‘city’ archive which supports the different eco-systems across the city by binding together all kinds of data on all kinds of subjects and making it available as a resource. From this it is hoped that new partnerships and ways of thinking will emerge based on evidence drawn from the data.
The premise is that:
- everybody has a story to tell…
- every place has a story to tell…
- every project deserves an audience…
At its simplest, the Coventry archive is a collection about Coventry, made up of ‘assets’ of the archive, which are digital files – the documents, maps, photographs, sounds and videos. These are uploaded, or ‘ingested’ through a process called ‘accession’ once their story has been added as ‘metadata’.
When the story of the assets is right, it can link people, places and times across all of these archives. With every photograph, film, document and video, there is very much a story to tell. Who are the people and the places, and what time does the asset speak of? To whom does the item belong? Who created it? This information is important and is added in as metadata.
The archive works as a single system that holds lots of archives together making it searchable in a single effort. These archives include those held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, that were created by the Coventry City of Culture Trust, the Belgrade Theatre, community group archives, business archives and family archives.
Photographs within the archive represent aspects of Coventry through the years. Thematic galleries include pre-war photographs, the construction and opening of the new Cathedral (as above), city buildings and planning, workers at Courtaulds and Massey Ferguson and images from the Coventry Telegraph, through to more recent contributions that captured UK CoC 2021.
BBC coverage of Coventry Digital
The story of how over 8,000 images, taken in Coventry between 1940 and 1965 by press photographer Arthur Cooper, have been added to Coventry Digital is detailed within a BBC news article.
In a follow-up piece, Ian Hollands recounts how he saved the glass plates that had been thrown out.
A further article at the time of King Charles III’s coronation drew upon images from Coventry Digital to show how Coventry celebrated the coronations of kings and queens going back more than 100 years.
The chairman of the Friends of Coventry Cathedral has helped to digitise the latest collection, as well as to identify people and events depicted. Some of the collection shows parts of the city’s cathedral and priory site, St Mary’s, dating back to the time of Leofric, the Earl of Mercia and Lady Godiva.
Discover fascinating maps, building plans, streets of interest, pre-war drawings and photographs of places and people of Coventry, from medieval times to the present day, to uncover a city of riches.
Coventry Atlas draws its data from Coventry Digital and provides a thematic history of the city. The site descriptions and biographies are accompanied with an image wherever possible, with a link other sites for those who wish to investigate people and places in more detail.
Fragments of that thousand-year tale are well known; the legend of Lady Godiva’s naked ride, the savagery of Coventry’s wartime ordeal, its role as one of the industrial drivers of modern Britain. Yet in the heritage of its streets and buildings, and in the recollections of its people and communities, the city has inspired a host of other stories that should be told and heard more widely.
Coventry Digital was created and is maintained by Coventry University as part of its commitment to Coventry UK CoC 2021. The archive is managed by Ben Kyneswood.
Images from Coventry Digital provided significant content for the Walking Through Coventry Data event at The Reel Store.