The In Flanders Fields Museum holds a rich collection of more than 2,000 aerial photographs covering the Western Front in Belgium. The collection is very diverse and includes many unique images . Unlike those in the more conventional archives found in London and Brussels, for example, the aerial photographs are displayed in photo albums that were composed during or shortly after the war and are thus a reflection of the personal war experience of the maker. An example of this is the Collection of Freiherr Dietrich von Kanne (Chielens 2009, de Meyer 2009), a German Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) who served in Feldflieger Abteilung 41 (Field Flyer Detachment), based in Gits. The album contains many unique images taken in early 1915 just before and during the Second Battle of Ypres. Besides aerialphotographs, von Kanne’s albums contain photographs of the aerodromes and observation balloons, battlefield scenes, group portraits and also important observation maps. Other private albums are similarly illuminating. These often include unique aerial photographs that were collected in albums because they showed special scenes (e.g. the reconstruction of Ypres, Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide shortly after the war) or specific actions (e.g. German aerial photographs of British raids on Zeebrugge), or simply for their aesthetic value (e.g. reflections of clouds in flooded terrain) or illustrative value (e.g. many aerial photographs of flying aircrafts). The 2,300 images of the IFFM collection are generally of locations in the western part of Belgium. The origins of the photographs are diverse, and interestingly a third of the collection consists of German aerial photographs. Almost a quarter of the images are oblique; this is typical for compiled collections because oblique aerial photographs are much easier to read for a layperson. A large part of the collection consists of vertical aerial photographs which have been geolocated (n= by the museum. The distribution of these images can be seen on the online map. Many museums, archives and libraries all over the world have similar collections. Because the photographs in them have sometimes been selected for a specific reason – as opposed to the bulkier, less discriminating holdings of the large and more official collections – they are often very interesting.
Chielens, P. (2009). The Last Witness: Military Aerial Photography Used in a Modern Museum Context. Images of Conflict: Military Aerial Photography and Archaeology. B. Stichelbaut, J. Bourgeois, N. Saunders and P. Chielens. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambrigde Scholars Publishing: 13-26.
de Meyer, M. (2009). World War 1 Battlefields of the Ypres Salient Mapped and Analysed With Aerial Photographs. A Confrontation with the Current Landscape and Archaeology. Images of Conflict. Aerial Photography and Archaeology. B. Stichelbaut, J. Bourgeois, N. Saunders and P. Chielens. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 203-220.