Volume 45 Number 1 Article 3
The Ron Bliss Slide Collection
Mel held out a couple of slide storage-boxes from Ron's collection: 'would you like to sort Ron's slides out for the Library?' He asked with a smile. 'Sure, why not?' I thought, 'I like helping; I like sorting things out; it would be easy and wouldn't take long.' Mel pointed to a large box, 'there's quite a lot more, it may take a while' There were three huge cardboard boxes crammed with slides in every type of container - tins, wooden boxes, plastic slide-boxes, various slide-storage systems, projector magazines or just loose, scattered here and there.
The collection of Ron's 2"x2" slides consists of over 6000 images taken over a period ranging from the mid-1950s to the recent 2000s, covering a wide range of subjects: caves and cavers; scenic views of the Lakes and Dales; various holidays at home and abroad (especially Turkey and Yugoslavia); the RRCPC (members, meetings, parties, events, walks etc.); friends and family, and all manner of natural history shots - birds, flowers and various animals. Many of the pictures reveal Ron in his prime - posing with friends or indulging in some sporting activity such as skiing, swimming or hiking.
The thousands of slides took weeks to sort out; all we could do at first was shuffle piles of slides on and off a viewing box and check-out 80 slides at-a-time on a carousel projector. Cataloguing the collection proved to be a difficult task. Most of the slides were in a variety of slide-storage boxes, however over the years they had become shuffled and generally mixed-up. Boxes of loose slides were especially difficult to sort out. About half the slides were dated (mainly the Kodak and Fuji) but unfortunately only a few were labelled with the 'subject'. Sometimes it was possible to clearly identify the subject (e.g. the 'Colonnades'), however many of the slides have had to be labelled in a generic fashion as 'caver', 'snow scene', 'cave passage' etc. Doubtless others will be able to recognise these slides and so the catalogue can be updated as time goes by.
There was no ideal way to sort and classify the slides. As far as possible they have been kept in Ron's original slide-boxes, but compressed, and matched into various groups depending on date, subject, type of film etc. Many of the 'below ground' caving slides are grouped together, but not exclusively; some are mixed in with the 'above ground' shots. Inevitability there are a number of boxes which are described as just 'mixed' - i.e. mixed above and below ground; mixed subjects; mixed dates and mixed film type! It is not ideal, but the object is to facilitate the location of an individual slide so it can be easily retrieved from the collection if required.
Ron and Friend, 1964
Oxford Pot, 1988
RRCPC Group, 1990
The database catalogue
Every slide has been viewed and entered on an Excel database, which is on a CD in the Library. There are over 6000 entries, and if printed out, would run to 314 pages! For each slide the data includes: the number of the slide-storage box; the sequential slide number within that box; the total number of slides in the box; the type of film mount (Kodak, Agfa, Fuji, etc.); colour or B/W; above or below ground; the subject; date if any, and a general comment. An illustrative page of the database is shown at the end of this article, however it is generally intended that it is used on a computer. In addition, a sample of about 200 slides has been scanned and is available on a separate CD.
Using the database
The catalogue can be browsed up and down without problem. The best way to search for a slide or topic is to use the 'Ctrl. F(ind)' and type an entry such as 'Ease Gill', 'caver', 'Ron' etc. A list of matching slides will appear to be searched. Make a note of the slide-box number and the slide number to locate it in the storage boxes. The slides themselves have not been numbered (the task was just too daunting), so it is good idea to keep a note of the box and slide number. It would also help if the borrower writes the box and slide number on the slides to ensure their return to the correct location. For example - 10.23 would mean 'box 10, slide number 23 in the box.' Try to avoid mixing the slides up!
The database is 'read-only' so please do not try to alter it. If you can identify a person or location on the slides, then let the librarian know and she will update the database.
The slide storage system
The collection is kept in the RRCPC Library. The slides are stored in a variety of slide-boxes: 28 oblong boxes with 1 or 2 magazines holding 30 to 100 slides each; 4 large boxes holding 5 or 6 magazines, and 118 small '36-slide' plastic boxes from Kodak, Agfa, Fuji etc. These, in turn, are housed in 5 polythene containers, numbered I - V. Their contents are listed below with a rough guide to their content:
|Poly container I|
|Box 1||Few above-ground scenes|
|Box 2||Ease Gill, caves|
|Box 3||Walks & scenery|
|Box 4||Holiday shots|
|Box 5||Larger, 129 slides, mainly slides|
|Box 6||Ease Gill & good cave shots|
|Box 7||Scenery, Lakes|
|Poly container II|
|Box 8||Red Rose groups, walks, caves|
|Box 9||Mixed, caves, 1970s, Mossdale rescue 1967|
|Box 10||Turkey 1993|
|Box 11||Turkey 1981|
|Box 12||Turkey 1993|
|Box 13||Slides for music|
|Box 14||Caving with camera|
|Box 15||Scenery & some caves c.1990s|
|Poly container III|
|Box 16||Scenery c.1980s|
|Box 17||Old glass slides, mixed subjects|
|Magazine box 18||Mixed subjects|
|Magazine box 19||Yugoslavia 1969|
|Magazine box 20||Yugoslavia 1969|
|Box 25||Mixed, some caves|
|Box 26||Mixed above ground|
|Box 27||Mixed some caves|
|Box 29||Above ground scenes|
|Box 31||Good caves|
|Poly container IV|
|Wood box 21||Mixed slides AG & UG|
|Wood box 22||Scenery & walks, few underground|
|Large black plastic box 23||Mixed, some good cave shots|
|Poly container V|
|Small black slide boxes B1 - B6|
|Small blue slide boxes BU1 - BU7|
|Small green slide boxes G1 - G39|
|Small orange slide boxes OR1 - OR8|
|Small white slide boxes W1 & W2|
|Small yellow slide boxes Y1 - Y56|
Peter & Julie Mohr