Space Heritage Image Project
Space Heritage Image Project © ESA

The ESA Archives at the ECSR contain two major collections of images originating from the HQ and ESTEC Communication offices. They represent more than 200 000 negatives and printed images from 1964 until 2003, taken by the ESRO, ELDO and ESA photographers, capturing engineering and space projects, administrative functions and everyday life at the various establishments.

The first collection, considered the major one, was created in ESTEC by the ESRO photographers in 1964. Until the Directorship of Reimar Lüst in 1985, this collection covered all ESRO and ESA, after which it became the collection for ESTEC activities only. The second collection is composed of 20 000 printed pictures. It contains a miscellanea of subjects: some from the ESTEC collection, some originals from the Publications Office and some originals from the Cabinet of the Director General (1964-1989) with a large amount of official signatures together with a small collection of ELDO negatives.

In the late 2010s, the ESA Archives began a project to digitise the negatives and printed pictures, to support the need for communication and celebration of past events. These images are preserved for historical purposes, not only for use by the academic community but also to be available to the general public. SHIP presently gives access to approximately 5000 of these images from 1964 to 1976 and a selection of pictures related to ELDO.

Downloading images

SHIP contains TIF and JPG images and pdf files with metadata and descriptions for download.  (You will need register an account or login before proceeding with download. ESA users: please login from the ESA network using your ESA credentials.)

You can download JPG images or pdf files using the ‘download image’ option at the top of the image viewer. Simply select the file type you want in the top menu bar of the viewer. Note that the pdf option will only appear for documents, not for image files or series of images.

To download TIF images, please ensure you are viewing at image, not series, level.
Check the Image or Series label at the top left of each entry to know at which level you are viewing.  From series level, you can open an image at image level by: clicking on its thumbnail to open the image viewer, viewing Image Info, copying the Identifier and entering this into the search bar as a search term.
Or, you can use the advanced search function to browse at image level: open an advanced search, ensure the 'show only the series' box is unchecked, enter your search term, and scroll down to see images at image level.
At image level, below each image thumbnail, a button will allow you to download a high-resolution image in different formats: JPG or TIF.

NB Files will be downloaded according to the behaviour configured in your browser. If your browser opens the image in a new window instead of downloading directly to your PC, right click on the image and select ‘Save image as…’ Don’t forget to empty your downloads folder of heavy files periodically.

Rules for use are specified in the copyright field. For more information, check the details on how to search and credit Archives material or consult the complete SHIP user manual.

Interoperability and annotations

As the descriptions made by photographers in the registries were brief, handwritten and sometimes missing, annotations can be added to the descriptions in the image viewer, by logged in external users (and all ESA users), supporting the work of the archives team in describing pictures.

Annotations can include text, links, images and multimedia, so users can also point to external sources of information.

Annotations will remain anonymous unless users choose to add their name to them. They can be modified only during the active web session in SHIP.)

Toggle annotationsTo access the annotation menu, open the relevant photo in the image viewer screen and click on the ‘toggle annotations’ speech bubble to the top left. You will then be able to view existing annotations and create new ones.

To view an existing annotation, point your mouse over it.

For new annotations, you can use the four shape icons to create annotations with rectangular, oval, freeform or polygonal shapes, or you can use the pin option. Simply click and draw your shape and add your text, tags, links or media. Once finished, clicking on ‘save’ will send the annotation to the Archives team for approval.

Find out more about annotations in this quick video guide.

Click on an image to open a new window using the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) tool that provides a world-class user experience in viewing, comparing, manipulating and annotating images (pictures or documents). Copying the IIIF manifest (the URL of the selected image) allows comparison with images from different external sources using the IIIF standard.