NCAP is the National Collection of Aerial Photography. It is one of the largest collections of aerial imagery in the world, containing tens of millions of aerial images featuring historic events and places around the world. It is the role of NCAP to collect and secure the future of these records, both digital and physical, to preserve them for generations to come, and to make them as accessible and available as possible. Taking an entrepreneurial approach to business, our operational and development costs are funded through commercial enterprise.
The use of historical aerial photography by the European bomb disposal market forms the core of our current business. We supply the aerial imagery used to locate unexploded Second World War bombs and to identify contaminated land where development is being planned throughout much of Europe. We are increasingly diversifying our customer base beyond the risk management sector, beyond Europe, and to businesses working on environmental and land use change issues and to the media.
Click here to learn about key uses of the archive
An internationally significant cultural asset, NCAP holds tens of millions of aerial photographs covering places throughout the world. The vast majority of the photographs have been declassified by the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence and cover the Second World War and the Cold War. Based in Edinburgh, NCAP also holds the largest collection of both military declassified and non-military aerial photographs covering Scotland.
For coverage of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, please click here.
The NCAP team have extensive experience of caring for historic aerial photography. Our backgrounds include digital imaging, geographic information systems, military imagery analysis, archive management, earth sciences, European history, town planning, record movement and photography. We are responsible for the long-term stewardship of the National Collection of Aerial Photography. We do this through record management, preservation, digitisation, cataloguing and research.
The collection contains over 120,000 boxes of prints, photographic films and associated records housed in several locations. Each of these items has a unique barcode identifier which is linked to a database. This allows us to track the movement of individual items from their storage location to our public search room and imagery production facilities. We take great care to ensure that items are logged at each location so that we are able to find them again in an efficient manner.
The collection contains inherently unstable photographic prints and films, which deteriorate even if they are never handled. We clean and preserve all prints and films passing through our digitisation suite, whether they are servicing customer orders or selected for copying due to their historic importance.
Every year we digitise hundreds-of-thousands of aerial images from the collection. Depending on the requirement, we do this by camera copy-stand, microfilm scanner, flat-bed scanner or photogrammetric scanner. We digitise images to service customer orders, to create a surrogate copy of original records, to create a copy of fragile records and to provide content for our website galleries.
When we digitise images for our website, we create a geographic centre-point for that image, so that we can show its location on the surface of the earth. This work involves lengthy study of original sortie plots, which show where the aircraft flew during its reconnaissance mission, and the orientation of the digital images so that north is uppermost.
We carry out searches of our holdings on behalf of customers from around the world. This involves studying original sortie plots and microfilms to find and select imagery appropriate to the customer’s needs. We also carry out extensive research in other archives to help find imagery in our uncatalogued holdings.