British photographic history

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Going Digital: National Museum Wales’s historic photography

A new project to curate and digitise historic photography from Wales’s national collections has been made possible with the support of a £600,000 gift from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, which is marking its 50th Birthday this year.

Natural Images - Amgueddfa Cymru’s new initiative, which begins in Autumn 2011, will involve transferring the finest examples from the Museum’s extraordinary collection of around 500,000 photographs and historic items, into an accessible digital format.

Items from the Museum’s photography collection are currently spread across several disciplines from geology and botany to social and industrial history and more recently, art. Waleshas a proud place in the history of photography and through Natural Images, the Museum will re-assess its place within the national collection, bringing together the diverse and extraordinary images to give an overview of this rich collection.

The Museums hosts works by a wide range of photographers, some anonymous and others famous like the Welsh pioneer of photography John Dillwyn Llewelyn. One of the great strengths of Wales’s historic photography collection is the 1,500 images and objects associated with Dillwyn Llewelyn. It includes original prints from the 1850s and examples of his pioneering and technically ambitious work with the ‘instantaneous process,’ capturing fleeting moments such as the breaking of a wave at Caswell and perhaps the earliest surviving photograph of a Guy Fawkes bonfire (c.1853).

Another important aspect of the collection is albums of photographs and books on photography. The Museum not only owns a first edition of The Pencil of Nature by William Henry Fox Talbot - one of the first books to describe photography, but also images by the Calvert Richard Jones, who developed his own technique for taking panoramic photographs and accompanied Fox Talbot when he toured Britain whilst working on the book.

The official press release can be found here.


Photo:  "Remember, Remember the 5th of November" 1853 by John Dillwyn Llewelyn. This image is probably the first in Wales showing a Guy Fawkes figure.

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