British photographic history

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Impressions Gallery Archive deposited with National Media Museum

In a landmark partnership, Impressions Gallery is depositing its archive with the National Media Museum. It will become part of the National Photography Collection, where it will be titled as  'Impressions Gallery Archive' and receive the highest standards of collections management. It is believed to be the first time a publicly funded photography gallery will have its archive cared for and made accessible by a national institution. It joins The Royal Photographic Society Collection and other notable collections housed and managed by the museum. 

Impressions Gallery, one of the oldest and most respected venues for contemporary photography in Europe, has accumulated an unrivalled collection of archival materials and photographic work since its inception in 1972. The aim of the partnership with National Media Museum is to make this rich period of British photographic exhibiting history available to curators, scholars, photographers and the wider public.

The National Media Museum is home to 3.5 million items of historical significance including one of the finest photographic collections in the world.  With an active programme of collections management, exhibitions, loans to peer institutions and an international reputation, the National Media Museum is the ideal partner to continue and develop the Impressions Gallery’s collection for the future, and make it available to the public.

Impressions Gallery is known for its directional role in the photography world, recognising and supporting photographers in the early stages of their careers such as Martin Parr, whose first show was staged at the gallery in 1972. Impressions has consistently set critical agendas by commissioning and showing work that addresses (sometimes controversial) issues of politics, race, gender and identity. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the gallery was the first in the UK to show photographic work responding to the AIDS crisis, and led the field in showing new work using then-emerging technologies of video and digital media.

Director of Impressions Gallery Anne McNeill said, ‘Impressions Gallery has played an incisive role in expanding people’s perceptions and understanding of photography. To coincide with achieving our milestone 40th anniversary, we are delighted to realise the next steps in the development and long term preservation of our archival materials’.

Jo Quinton-Tulloch, Head of National Media Museum said, ‘Naturally, the Museum is thrilled to be able to secure such an important archive and collection of photography – one which not only records and evidences the considerable contribution of Impressions Gallery over the past 40 years and counting, but which also further enhances the National Photography Collection’

This is the second major collaboration for the two Bradford-based photography venues, following the successful launch of the inaugural photography festival Ways of Looking in 2011. The Chairman of Impressions Gallery Board of Trustees Darryn Hedges said, ‘This exciting project demonstrates Impressions’ ongoing commitment to making Bradford known as the UK destination for photography’.

The museum has not yet commented upon whether opening hours at its Insight facility will be extended to support the likely interest in the Impressions archive or whether it will expand its curatorial staff to support access to the material and facilitate the 'highest standards' of collections management. The museum has lost curatorial staff in recent months and opening hours at Insight have been reduced in recent years limiting access to researchers. 

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