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Environment, Space, Place

Volume 4, Issue 1, Spring 2012

Andrew Cox, Steve Spencer
Pages 135-159
DOI: 10.7761/ESP.4.1.135

Sheffield Then and Now
Myths of Place in Local History Picture Books

One significant way in which place is represented is through books based on old photographs and postcards. Recontextualised in such books, historical photos can be used to create mesmeric myths about a locality. This paper explores the genre through four works about areas in Sheffield, a city in the north of England. The book for the well to do suburb, Crosspool, constructs a quaint rural past. Two representations of a working class district are perhaps a little more successful in recovering a personally significant past. The history of a local steel firm avoids issues of social conflict and exploitation by adopting a documentary tone. The genre trades on the active interest of seeing familiar scenes as they were in the past, but fails to develop interpretative strategies, such as asking about the context of photos’ original creation or reflecting on how they have been reused.

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