Barnardo's archive 'up for grabs' or destruction (UPDATE 3)

20 July: One of the oldest, extant, dedicated photographic archives in the world, the Barnardo's photographic archive, currently housed in Barkingside, East London is under threat. Following its digitisation the archive will be transferred to another organisation or will be destroyed.

Over the next few months, Barnardo's will be having its entire photographic archive digitised in Manchester. Due to space issues at Barnardo's, the organisation will then destroy the original images unless an archive or museum can be persuaded to save these important historic documents. The material consists of about of shelving around fifteen feet in length holding archival boxes about 8 inches deep and about 20 inches high. The pages from the original admissions ledgers have been cut out and placed in archival plastic sheets.

Dr. Thomas Barnardo began photographing the 'waifs and strays' that came into his care at his first childrens home in Stepney causeway as early as 1875, employing two photographers, Barnardo preceded most prisons and asylums by seeing the benifits of photography for institutional record keeping. He soon came into legal trouble for faking the condition of the children for the purposes of publicity. 

The importance of these beautiful images - not just to photographic history but to the study of archive practices and British social history - cannot be overstated. It is imperative that their material importance is upheld and that they do not simply become yet another archive solely made up of a smattering of zeroes and ones.

There are certain stipulations regarding the public use of images of children within their care and the images would be subject to a 100 year privacy rule but would still be accessible for private and/or scholarly work.

If you might know of an institution, archive, museum, group of people or persons that would be willing to help save this archive of historical importance please contact the head archivist at Barnardos.

Read more about the Barnardo archive here:


Update 1: A petition has been launched to 'save' the archive. Click here to view and sign. The petition addressed to Culture Minister Maria Miller has been signed by over 1000 people. 


Update 2: Barnardos has commented publicly for the first time. It says it is 'confident it will find a destination for 500,000 historic photos'. 

Update 3: According to Amateur Photographer magazine over forty offers to house the archive have been received.  

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  • Bobbie Carnegie

    There's digitisation and digitization. Already asked in online documented concern is 'who is turning the photos digital'? (Yes, we know it's 'Manchester', but...) Does 'Manchester' know what it is doing in terms of the handling of damageable material if indelicately and disrespectfully handled? Is each item being scanned at appropriate high resolution within a scanning format that insures utmost digital preservation? Or does 'Manchester' merely mean a commercial or college or university outfit has been dumped with loads of un-catalogued boxes of old photos where indifferent office clerks are lumbered with an onerous scanning task they, with respect to their, otherwise, general diligence, have no internal, reflective emotion to do their very best to see that each-and-every Dr. Barnardo waif and stray has his and her photographed spirit dutifully, if digitally, resurrected - insuring 'our darlings'* receive tender loving care all over again?

    *Quote associated with Dr. Barnardo

  • Bobbie Carnegie

    Recent Ebay Sale of 'Antique Barnardo's Magic Lantern Slides'
    I see that a set of 21 antique magic lantern slides were up for sale on Ebay on 20/08/2013 (at 20.56:47pm BST). The slides were titled as "VINTAGE, ANTIQUE, 21 PHOTOGRAPHIC, MAGIC LANTERN SLIDES, DR BARNARDOS". Please note Ebay link below and attached pics...
    What surprised me was that some of the slides - when I accessed the Ebay online picture refs of the sale - clearly had written on them "This is property of Barnardo's". I endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to bid for said 'antique Barnardo items' which I would have donated to PETT Archive & Study Centre in Gloucestershire...
    I have asked advice of a certain Martine of Barnardo's who, I understand, is one of those responsible for Barnardo's photo archive's present digitisation in 'Manchester'.
    I so hope this Ebay sale isn't evidence of 'leaking' of artefacts from an archive that isn't properly monitored. Otherwise, this leaves me such a cussed, suspicious old codger who suspects ill in every quarter.
  • Michael Pritchard

    Barnardos published sets of lantern slides for fundraising so it's likely that the eBay set is one of these - so not part of the archive.