British photographic history

Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history

Kodak Research Library now available to researchers

As BPH reported in 2009 De Montfort University had been given the remaining portion of the Kodak Research Library which had been based at Kodak Ltd's premises at Harrow. The company's archives are at the British Library. At an informal ceremony this week attended by Sam Weller and Chris Roberts both formerly of Kodak De Montfort University's Kimberlin Library showed off the Kodak library newly installed in its purpose-built Special Collections area. 

The Kodak material is particularly strong in runs of British, European and American photographic journals.As one would expect it also includes some limited material relating to Kodak but the majority of Kodak's own publications are held as part of the Kodak Historical Collection at the British Library,  The DMU material has been catalogued and is available through the online library catalogue. The library's catalogue search facility can be found here. Use 'Kodak Collection' in the keyword field to browse all titles or search for specific titles.  

It is worth giving some context to the material that is now at DMU. Chris Roberts was actively involved in saving the library from being dispersed or destroyed. He notes that the material at DMU is only a small fraction of what had originally been at Kodak in Harrow, as an urgent decision had to be taken regarding what to 'rescue '.  He writes: "I had only a short time to move selected books from the Library to the Archive before the remainder was thrown away! You can imagine my horror in seeing the notice that the Library was to be first offered to members of the Research Laboratory and the remainder disposed of.  It all happened quite quickly. Hope Kingsley helped me to move the books and although I offered whatever we had to the Universities of Westminster and Middlesex they did not have the finance or the room for any more books." Roger Taylor promoted the interest of DMU and this resulted in the agreement between the BL, DMU and Kodak. Sadly this is not an usual story - many company libraries have been destroyed and photo-historians should be grateful that as much was saved as possible. 

The Kodak Collection in the Special Collections areas is open to members of the public usually between Tuesday and Thursday from 9am to 4pm or by appointment. The library archivist is Linda Butt who can be reached on +44 (0)116 250 6392 or email: lbutt@dmu.ac.uk

Views: 692

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of British photographic history to add comments!

Join British photographic history

Comment by Michael Pritchard on June 3, 2012 at 13:42

I'd support the union catalogue of photographic periodicals.The Photographic Dealer is one I have been trying to locate. The BL and the NYPL both have incomplete runs and I have been fortunately to acquire some odd issues over the years. Those aside it does not seem to be anywhere else... unless someone knows better...?

Comment by Stephen Bottomore on June 3, 2012 at 12:13

Thanks Michael and Adrienne. I'll certainly think about the LC project which sounds potentially extremely valuable. As we all know, trade journals are probably the most crucial tool for the media historian. These journals are also extremely valuable. Single issues of the journal 'Moving Picture World' from the early 1910s regularly sell on ebay for up to $200. I guess it's a similar situation with photo journals from the 19th century (and manuals too). Which makes it all the more extraordinary that some librarians were junking entire volumes of such journals. I'm glad to hear that people like Chris Roberts have a very different attitude.

Comment by Michael Pritchard on June 2, 2012 at 8:53

That sounds like an interesting project, Adrienne. The British Library conducted a similar trawl of photographically illustrated books and photographs across its collections a few years ago. From my own research the BL has photographic manuals, trade catalogues and books across disparate parts of the library some only available through paper catalogues...Please keep us posted with progress. 

Comment by Adrienne Lundgren on June 2, 2012 at 2:08

In the vein of preserving important research libraries relating to photographic history, I would like to add that the Library of Congress in Washington, DC is an exceptional resource.  Currently, we are conducting a project to remove the rarest of the photograph technology manuals from the general collections to the Rare Book Division where they will be more adequately protected from use (ie. being sent through the building to reading rooms via a conveyor belt system or rebound into library bindings).  In addition, this project includes updating catalog records to include more details about original photographs and samples in the volumes as well as rectifying errors such as later editions of a book being cataloged as copy 2's.  An in depth finding aid will also be created to help researchers use the collection.  Eventually, it is our hope that this collection will be digitized and available through the www.loc.gov website.  It includes a complete run of the Photographic Times (among other serials) including all three issues of the Photographic Society of Bengal, Photographic Mosaics, the Liverpool Manchester Photographic Journal, and many rare and important monographs, and pamphlets (in fact I just found an amazing one on "Making Crystalographs", which has been very helpful in a treatment that I am currently conducting.)  The TR sections of the Library of Congress numbers in the tens of thousands of books but the transfer to the Rare Book Division will only allow for 500 volumes due to space limitations.  I invite you all to explore the Library catalog listing and to send your recommendations to me regarding items that should be considered for transfer. 

These libraries are essential to the preservation of photographic history and I am so pleased that DMU has been able to secure this collection and make it available to researchers.  Bravo!

Comment by Michael Pritchard on May 27, 2012 at 9:02

Stephen - I have added some more context to the material that is at DMU above. Unfortunately it seems what isn't at DMU was destroyed. There are some positives. Unlike many university libraries DMU is not proposing to charge external readers and the public to use the material. At the moment you may find that access at DMU is greater than that at Bradford since Ruth went on maternity leave and Brian remains actively involved in the Media Space project. At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, it seems that access to Insight in Bradford will be extremely limited or absent. 

What my own PhD study brought home to me was how rare runs of photographic journals are in the UK. In London, the V&A/NAL, the BL and Science Museum Library are the only runs (and not complete runs) and each has particular problems of access. Outside of London the situation is dire with Birmingham and Bradford notable exceptions. I would agree that a comprehensive catalogue of holdings of photographic periodicals would be very useful - if only to draw attention to their scarcity. With the growing interest in photographic history it strikes me that there is a real opportunity for a digitisation project to make this material more widely available.

Comment by Stephen Bottomore on May 27, 2012 at 6:35

Michael - Thank you. Your posts and your wider research are much appreciated by me and many others. It's good news that this Kodak collection has been saved, and fine that it's to be used under supervision. I still have 2 concerns, though. The access time is extremely limited: between Tuesday and Thursday only. That is even less than at the NMeM in Bradford. Your post says that the collection can be viewed 'by appointment', and perhaps that will be the saving grace. The other good thing will perhaps be the staff, if they are anything like the extremely helpful people up at Bradford. Even so, hours of access are an important issue for obsessional researchers such as myself: e.g. when the Urban collection was at the Science Museum in London, one could consult it for 12 hours in the day; now it's in Bradford the hours are limited to about 5, and it is only through the said dedicated staff that this limitation is mitigated. (e.g. the last time I was there Colin and the other staff found me 3 or 4 references that I hadn’t even known about. They also photographed items for me later. However, I’d still like more access time!)

My other concern is this: where have some of these journals gone since Harrow? In my previous post I mentioned the "American Journal of Photography". Sorry, that was a mistake. The journal I actually found so rich when I visited Harrow in the 1980s was the "Photographic Times" (articles on Armat/Jenkins etc). They had a whole run of this through the 1890s, but now it is not listed in the De Montfort site. Where has it gone? Okay it's available on Hathi for most of those years, so that is no big deal, maybe -- except that the original print version is the one that historians will always want to see; and it is surely always more interesting and useful to browse the original than any copy – digital or otherwise.

And where have other photography and cinema periodicals gone? It seems to me that someone should produce a union list of British (and world) holdings of photographic (and early cinema) periodicals. Such periodicals are the life-blood of photographic and silent cinema history. They should be preserved and listed and catalogued and indexed. It is through such periodicals that great photographic historians such as Bill Jay (and yourself) can do their work. If De Montfort really want to make a mark in the world of photographic history, then they might consider employing a really good and knowledgeable bibliographer/librarian to take on this task. Their first trips should be to Rochester (GEH), to Paris (Société française de photographie), to Frankfurt/Dresden – then Firenze, Moscow... The list would go on. I wonder why this is not being done? So many people are investigating photographic history these days, yet there are so few up-to-date resources to further the work. SUNcat is a start, and the famous BUCOP and the American, French equivalents. But surely, in this age of digital online resources, someone can have the imagination to realize that a major bibliographic project specific to photography is required here.

One doesn't have much confidence, though, when even the bibliograhic journal "Photohistorica" was allowed to perish...

By the way, my avatar is Adele de Garde, one of the first movie stars.

Comment by Michael Pritchard on May 26, 2012 at 14:06

Stephen - the Kodak library is available by appointment at DMU as noted. It is kept securely out of the day-to-day reach of undergrads. It is there to be used by students and the public under supervision.

Comment by Stephen Bottomore on May 26, 2012 at 13:54

I saw the "American Journal of Photography" and several other titles in this amazing library back in the early 1980s when it was in Harrow. Now such titles can only be found in American libraries, though a very few have been digitised. There is no photographic collection in the UK which is easily accessible. Will De Montfort will keep this collection away from the eyes of the public?

© 2019   Created by Michael Pritchard.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service