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: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/who_we_are/history/family_history_service/family_history_service_our_service/photo_archive.htm
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. http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1192660/fears-circulate-barnardos-photo-archive-destroyed/ 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.