British photographic history

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Qatar's International Media Museum - 'plans scrapped'

Doha News reports that plans for the proposed Qatar-based International Media Museum in Doha have been scrapped amidst staff and budget reductions. Several senior staff working on the Media collections have recently left. The newspaper reports that: 'QMA employees have also alleged that teams working on plans for three proposed museums – the Pearl, Media and Children’s museums – have been significantly reduced, and plans for individual museums scrapped.

'However, a QMA spokesperson told Doha News today that while the organization had considered establishing permanent homes for the Pearl and Media collections, these plans were never formalized. The collections remain, however, and their respective teams are still working on them, she said, adding that there had been “no change” to plans for the Children’s Museum.' Reference to the photography and related collections have been removed from the QMA, now Qatar Museums, website which has recently been updated.

The Qatar state has acquired significant holdings of photography, originally through the collecting of Sheikh Saud Al-Thani, and subsequently taken over by the state.  Al Thani collected photography, cameras and printed materials - from the late 1990s. The QMA collections include significant holdings of daguerreotypes and the S F Spira Collection amongst many others. According to the QMA: 'The IMM possesses one of the most outstanding and valuable photographic collections in the region and one that ranks with major collections through the world. The photographs are of exceptional quality and span from the 19th century to present. The collection includes photographs from early daguerreotypes through albums and photography - illustrated books to contemporary colour photographs and photographic advertising poster. Also IMM possesses a collection of films and photographic and film technology as well as a significant rare book collection.' Recently buying of photography by the QMA had largely stopped. 

Details of the QMA Photography collections can be found here:

Plans for a photography museum, later re-named International Media Museum, were first drawn up by 2002 and were well advanced with designs (shown above, left) prepared by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. Construction never started.

In February 2013 World Architecture News revealed plans (image below, right) from Fernando Romero Enterprise’s (FR-EE) latest building concept: PH Museum in the Middle East. The location of the building was widely believed to be Doha. WAN noted: 'The main bulk of the 3,800sq m museum takes the form of a large canopy, shading visitors from harsh sunlight beneath a circular overhang. Romero has taken his cue from ‘the mechanics of a camera’, falling in line with the functionality of the space as a museum of photography and photographic equipment.

FR-EE explains: “Inspired by the mechanics of a camera, the organization of the museum reflects the complexity of a camera lens. The interior is organized radially from the center of the building and a spiraling ramp connects these spaces to emphasize spatial continuity.'

The proposed opening had been postponed several times since, most recently with a date of 2017 being suggested. This now appears to be unlikely as QM reviews its cultural strategy, assesses its budgets, appoints a new CEO after the departure of Edward Dolman, and adopts a policy of Qatarisation for employees. Sadly, the photography museum appears to have become a casualty of those changes. 

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