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Natural Images

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s historic photography goes digital thanks to a £600,000 gift from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s historic photography goes digital

thanks to a £600,000 gift from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation


A new project to curate and digitise historic photography from Wales’s national collections has been made possible with the support of 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 ofWales’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 touredBritain whilst working on the book.  

“How charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durable and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I ask myself.” The Pencil of Nature by William Henry Fox Talbot


Natural Images will take Fox Talbot’s vision a step further through transforming photographs from the collection, from glass and celluloid to digital file, and from negative to paper facsimiles and the screen. 


Michael Tooby, Director of Learning, Programmes and Development, Amgueddfa Cymru said:

“We are extremely grateful to the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation for its generous gift, which will drive this important and much needed programme for Amgueddfa Cymru, the people ofWalesand those further afield.


Natural Images will give the photographic holdings in our collections the profile they  deserve, ensuring they have the same level of international recognition given to the other great holdings in our social and industrial history, art, archaeology and natural history collections.


“We hope the newly interpreted collection will inspire new and established photographers!”


Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, added:


“Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has a proud history of working with projects that enable people to fully participate in and enjoy the arts. Natural Images will open up National Museum Wales’ unique collection of historic photography to an entirely new audience from Wales and beyond, and we are delighted to support this ground-breaking initiative as part of our 50th birthday celebrations.”