As the curator of photography and photographic technology at the National Media Museum in Bradford, Colin Harding has the mammoth task of collecting, sorting and displaying all sorts of photographic curios
Is the museum still looking for photographic objects for its collection? If so, what in particular are you looking for? Even though the collection is so extensive, there are still some gaps that I would love to be able to fill. For example, in the Kodak collection we have examples of practically every camera that Kodak ever made. However we don’t have a Cone Kodak camera – a very rare camera made in 1898. If any of your readers has one, I’d love to hear from them. What are someof themore extraordinary items you’ve discovered within the collection? The collection is a constant source of surprises. The more you know, the more you realise how much there is still left to discover. For example, a photograph with a frame made from plaited human hair – you wouldn’t expect to find that. You’ve curated a number of special exhibitions in the past, do you have any in the pipeline? It’s been a pleasure to work on exhibitions with subjects ranging from the origins of colour photography (The Dawn of Colour: Celebrating the Centenary of the Autochrome, 2007) to Don McCullin’s photos of England and the English (Don McCullin: In England, 2009). I’m afraid I can’t tell you what I’m working on right now, other than to say it’s an equally exciting show for anyone with even a passing interest in photography. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? Even after nearly 30 years, working with such a fantastic collection still gives me a frisson of excitement. I feel very lucky and very privileged that it has been an important part of my life for so long.
retail, web and IT staff, and the learning team, to name a few…
Tell us about your history with the National Media Museum (NMM). I’ve been at the National Media Museum since 1985. My role involves looking after the National Photography Collection and Photographic Technology Collection. YEARS IN THE PHOTO INDUSTRY: 33 CURRENT LOCATION: Bradford LAST PICTURE TAKEN: My daughter’s graduation HOBBIES: Gardening WHEN YOUWERE YOUNGER, WHAT DID YOUWANT TO BE WHEN YOU GREWUP? An architect DOGS OR CATS? Cats TOAST OR CEREAL? Toast EMAIL OR PHONE CALL? Phone call BIOGRAPHY Can you give our readers a bit of background to the NMM? The museum opened in 1983 and at the time was called the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television. It was created through a partnership between the Science Museum and Bradford Metropolitan District Council. In 2006, the museum became the National Media Museum and today there are eight floors of galleries and exhibition spaces, three cinemas, plus national collections of more than threemillion items includingphotographs, photographic technology, TV technology and cinematography. Currently around half a million people a year visit us. The museum is part of the Science Museum Group, which is primarily funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. We also raise money for specific projects. For example, the principal donors and sponsors for Media Space, a collaboration between the Science Museum and the National Media Museum, are Michael and Jane Wilson, the Dana and Albert R Broccoli Foundation and Virgin Media. We’ve also received support from organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Art Fund and the Royal Photographic Society for acquisitions and displays. How many people are involved in the running of the NMM? There are around 100 full-time and part-time members of staff at the museum, including front of house, curators, archivists, a conservator, the team running the cinema operation, exhibition organiser,
No parent shouldhave
The museum has an impressive collection, but how does it acquire these artefacts? We receive many offers of material for the collection, from a single Brownie camera to photographers’ complete archives. All offers are carefully considered and discussed at regular meetings. We link our collecting to aspects of our exhibitions and public programmes, and like to work in partnership with photographers wherever possible. Does the museum have to conserve the collection in a particular way? We place great stress on preventative conservation: storing items in the best possible environmental conditions to safeguard them for future generations to enjoy. Objects are stored in a purpose-built archive with strictly regulated conditions. Does the NMM have much interaction with camera clubs? We value the work of specialist groups and societies and often host visits and meetings. I am regularly invited by clubs to give talks on the work of the National Media Museum and its collections. Do you get many visitors who view and research your photographic collections, at the Insight: Collections and Research Centre? We get a very wide range of visitors to Insight from all over the world. At the moment, we dedicate one week each month to giving researchers access to the collections. Visitors vary from internationally acclaimed scholars and photographers, to people who are simply researching their family trees. As far as we’re concerned, all our visitors are equally important. Do you have a personal favourite item within the collection? No parent should have a favourite – especially when you have millions to choose from. However, I have always had a soft spot for the Thompson Revolver Camera dating from 1862 that I managed to acquire at auction over 20 years ago. The Revolver Camera is in the form of a handgun, but, instead of bullets, the brass cylinder that forms the body of the camera would hold a circular glass plate. After each exposure, the back of this cylinder was rotated 90°. In this way, four successive ‘shots’ could be taken before it needed to be reloaded. The wooden pistol grip allowed the camera to be held steady with one hand, leaving the other free to operate the controls.
a favourite – especially whenyouhave millions to choose from. However I have always had a soft spot for the Thompson Revolver Camera
π To find out more, go to www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk.
Photography News | Issue 10
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