The Dorset Coast Digital Archive is an extensive archive, hosting a great diversity of photographs, newspaper articles, aerial images and historical maps of the Dorset coast as far back as 1740. This work is a centrepiece for knowledge exchange on how areas have developed over time through a visual representation. The archive promotes information and an understanding of how the Dorset coast has changed over time, including how the coastal morphology has evolved, how biodiversity has changed and how settlements and society have developed. The archive contains over 20,000 images, which have been grouped into the following original three categories.
Physical changes to the Coast
Dorset’s coastal and marine habitats include some of Britain’s rarest species, but also a wide range of more common species. Maritime heathlands, salt marsh, estuaries, cliffs and landslides, lagoons, rocky shores, sand beaches and dunes, submarine rock ledges and gravel banks together form a very diverse and productive ecosystem. Most of what we know comes from charts, divers and underwater photography.
Settlements and Society
Maps and estate plans in the archive record the growth of settlements on the coast from the sixteenth century onwards. Most large estates were established by the sixteenth century. Medieval legal cases explain some of these patterns of growth. The sea’s presence affects the suitability of sites for occupation and development. Marine commerce and trade have been important throughout this coast’s history.
Managing the coast
Dorset’s marine and coastal environments are its principal environmental and economic assets. The sea is used for tourism and recreation, fisheries, education, mineral extraction, transport and waste disposal. These all have impacts on Dorset’s marine environment. With increasing pressure on the coast, management of Dorset’s marine resources is a constant challenge.
The main categories have been broken down into four further groups to enhance the accessibility of the images. The archive will promote information and an understanding of how the Dorset coast has changed over time, including how the coastal morphology has evolved, how biodiversity has changed, and how society and settlements have developed.
The collaboration with the Wessex Portal and Channel Coast Observatory has made it possible for this fantastic resource to be accessible online, available to a wider audience. The project has been led by the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences at Bournemouth University, and funded by the Valentine Charitable Trust. We hope that this archive will be a valuable tool for teaching and to the public’s viewing pleasure and personal research into their local past.
The full digital archive can now be found via the Channel Coast Observatory: