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Digital archive brings Black Country's past to life

image copyrightNick Hedges
image captionBlast furnace workers relax at the Bilston Steel works

Three thousand images of Black Country life, from the 1970s to the 1990s, have been made digitally available.

The collection, from the Express & Star newspaper's archive, depicts personal stories and events from across the era.

The Midland News Association worked with Wolverhampton City Archives and the University of Wolverhampton to make the collection available.

It is hoped more pictures from the paper's extensive archive will be published later.

image copyrightExpress & Star
image captionFive hundred people protested when Employment Minister James Prior visited Telford. GKN announced the closure of the Hadley Castle plant with loss of 1000 jobs.

People can view the images on the website run by Wolverhampton-based newspaper the Express & Star for free.

image copyrightExpress & Star
image captionDoreen Kennedy-Way opens her first inventor's exhibition Innov-ex 78 at the Station Hotel, Dudley. She is shown on a children's toy car with hotel cleaners Margaret Wise, Ethel Broome and Betty Bytheway

The archive includes images of the steel and mining industries and depict local people at work in the region.

Volunteers spent hours sifting through the shelves of the collection to prepare the images for preservation, prioritising photographs of the region's industrial history, the war years and the changing local landscape.

Express & Star editor Martin Wright said: "We are delighted that the first photos have been brought back to life for local people to revisit their shared history, all on a website made available for free.

"Thank you to all of the readers and members of the public who supported the project during the painstaking work needed to preserve the photographs."

image copyrightExpress & Star
image captionThe Sunbeam Motor Car Company Works off Villiers Street, Wolverhampton
image copyrightExpress & Star
image captionInner shell of stainless steel liquid gas storage vessel being steam cleaned in 1968 at the Tipton works of Thompson Horseley division
image copyrightExpress & Star
image captionArriving in style at the NEC in May 1990
image copyrightExpress & Star
image captionThe old Wolverhampton Metal building with smoke billowing into the sky

Scott Knight, of the faculty of arts at the University of Wolverhampton said the collection was a historical source capturing hundred of personal stories about the changes in life for the region.

The first 3,000 images published on the website as part of the £60,000 National Lottery project include photographs taken during steel industry operations and during the final years of the mining industry.

Many of them have not been seen since they appeared in print, anywhere between 25 and 50 years ago.

Work will now begin on securing funding to preserve other photographs, including mostly unseen images of World War II.

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