The Museum and the Photograph: Collecting Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1853–1900
Public art museums and photography developed at a comparable historic moment in the mid-19th century. No museum had a more interesting relationship with photography in that period than the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Known originally as the South Kensington Museum, the institution not only collected photographs as early as 1853 but commissioned them for documentary purposes. Mark Haworth-Booth, curator of photographs at the V&A, gives a historical overview of the circumstances of their acquisition. Anne McCauley traces the parallels between the development of photography as a medium and the development of the public museum as a collecting entity, with comparisons of the V&A to the Bibliothèque nationale and the Bibliothèque des Arts decoratifs in France. Using examples from the V&A collection, the authors discuss early institutional attitudes towards the medium and early collections. Reproductions include works of a number of noted photographers, including Gustave Le Gray, Julia Margaret Cameron, Samuel Bourne, Eadweard Muybridge, Peter H. Emerson, and Frederick H. Evans. The Museum and the Photograph: Collecting Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1853–1900 accompanied an exhibition that opened at the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute in February 1998.