RRCPC Newsletter
Volume 45 Number 1 Article 3
March 2008

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.

Ice Cave

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 24   Mixed
Box 25   Mixed, some caves
Box 26   Mixed above ground
Box 27   Mixed some caves
Box 28   Mixed
Box 29   Above ground scenes
Box 30   Mixed
Box 31   Good caves
Box 32   Mixed
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

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