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Historic photography collections set to be digitised

BBC Wales History

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A new project to curate and digitise historic photography from National Museum Wales collections has been made possible with the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The Foundation, which is marking its 50th Birthday this year, has made the ambitious project possible by gifting £600,000.

Calvert Richard Jones, Canal, Brecon, c. 1845

Natural Images - Amgueddfa Cymru's new initiative, which begins in Autumn 2011, will involve transferring around 500,000 photographs and historic items into accessible digital formats.

Currently items from the museum's photography collection are spread across several disciplines including geology and botany, social and industrial history and more recently, art.

The museums host works by a wide range of photographers, including Welsh pioneer of photography such as John Dillwyn Llewelyn.

"Remember, Remember the 5th of November" by John Dillwyn Llewelyn.

There are 1,500 images and objects associated with Dillwyn Llewelyn which includes original prints from the 1850s and examples of his pioneering work. The above image is perhaps the earliest surviving photograph in Wales of a Guy Fawkes bonfire (c.1853).

The museum hosts a collection of photograph albums and books on photography. It 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.

"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)

The museum hopes that 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 of Wales and those further afield.

"We hope the newly interpreted collection will inspire new and established photographers."

Michael Tooby and archivist Lowri Jenkins

Keep up to date with the latest news from National Museum Wales on their website.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was established in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn as a memorial to his wife Esmée. Today it is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. Find out more on their website.

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