Thousands of images by Olive Edis, Britain’s first female war photographer, whose famous subjects included novelist Thomas Hardy, are set to be digitised thanks to an £81,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Group of soldiers at Blickling Hall, Norfolk [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]

The money will enable archivists to bring together images and journals from Olive Edis collections worldwide and should ensure future generations will have access to her pictures.

Olive, who had a studio in Sheringham, Norfolk, won fame for her portraits of people from all walks of life, including local fishermen, Prime Ministers and the Royal Family.

The Norfolk Museums Service (NMS), which is overseeing the digitisation project, says visitors to Cromer Museum will be able to explore the ‘fully accessible’ archive using smartphones and touchscreen technology.

The grant, which will see the digitisation of all 2,000 images in the collection, will also be used to boost awareness of Olive’s ‘inspirational life’, according to the NMS, which said in a statement: ‘Her talents were soon recognised by the Imperial War Museum, which commissioned her to photograph the people, particularly women, in the armed services, and the effects of the First World War.

‘Olive’s mission included a tour of Belgium and France in 1919, where she captured some of the devastating impacts of the conflict, including in Ypres.’

Olive was involved in the suffragette movement, giving her a unique insight into the changing role of women during the war.

Olive Edis War Photographer.web

Olive Edis [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]

‘A journal she kept on her European tour forms an incredible first-hand account of the experiences of her subjects, and photographs taken in Norfolk during the war provide an insight into the effects of the war on those left behind,’ added the NMS.

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF for the East of England, said the photographer’s work spans ‘social, gender and geographical boundaries to provide an incredible glimpse into the personal world of her subjects.’

Tracey Crouch, MP for Chatham and Aylesford, added: ‘As the first woman to work as an official war photographer, it’s fantastic that Heritage Lottery Fund funding will be used to tell the extraordinary story of Olive Edis.

‘This digital archive of her poignant work will give us a stark look at the harsh realities on the Home and Western Front, but also the changing role of women during the war.

‘I’m delighted that her work will receive the recognition it deserves and provide future generations with a better understanding of life during the First World War.’

CR09759 (Rachel Crowdy).webNurse and social reformer Rachel Crowdy [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]

CR09094 (Thomas Hardy).web

Thomas Hardy [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]

CR09568 (tank on Menin Road 1919).web

Tank on Menin Road, Western Front, 1919 [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]

CR10682 King George V with Soldiers.web.

King George V with soldiers [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]

David Lloyd George.web

David Lloyd George [Photo credit: Norfolk Museums Service]