The Fox Talbot Museum acquires historic photographic collection of international significance

Lacock table top showing items from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

An extraordinary collection of early photographic technology and images is being transferred from the British Film Institute to the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock in Wiltshire, thanks to a £36,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and support from Art Council England’s Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Materials (PRISM) fund.

Lacock table top showing items from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

Lacock table top showing items from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

The collection comprises hundreds of cameras, optical devices and toys from the eighteenth century to the late 1980s as well as nearly 3,500 photographic images ranging from the earliest processes through to the first part of the twentieth century. It was assembled by James Fenton in the second half of the twentieth century and acquired by the Museum of the Moving Image, which closed in 1999. Since then, the collection has remained in storage, but with the support of the British Film Institute, Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, it will now be brought back into the light at the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock.

The museum, situated in the grounds of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, celebrates the achievement of William Henry Fox Talbot. Talbot captured the world’s first photographic negative at the abbey in 1835 and invented the calotype process, paving the way for photographic processes on film still used today.

A sliding back portrait camera c.1860 from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust / Roger Watson

A sliding back portrait camera c.1860 from the Fenton Collection (c)National Trust / Roger Watson

As Britain’s birthplace of photography, Lacock is the perfect place for James Fenton’s collection, and the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and PRISM means that this unique collection can be properly cared for. Volunteers at the museum will work with skilled conservators to catalogue and digitalise the 4,500 objects in the collection in front of the eyes of the visitors, bringing the history of photography to life in a completely new way.

A negative retouching desk from the Fenton Collection at Lacock (c)National Trust / Roger Watson

A negative retouching desk from the Fenton Collection at Lacock (c)National Trust / Roger Watson

Roger Watson, curator of the Fox Talbot Museum, said, ‘We are hugely grateful to all of our supporters; the British Film Institute, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and Arts Council England. With their support, we are better able to tell the history of photography, to preserve a crucial part of our history, and to care for this incredible collection in the way it deserves.’

Nerys Watts, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said, ‘HLF is so pleased to support this project to bring together and digitise the wonderful Fenton collection of photographic material. Thanks to National Lottery players, this internationally significant collection, which shows the evolution of photography, will now be conserved and exhibited, with opportunities for a wide range of people to learn new skills.’

Lacock display case showing the fenton collection at Lacock (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

Lacock display case showing the fenton collection at Lacock (c)National Trust/Roger Watson

The Fenton collection will move to the Fox Talbot Museum before the end of the year, and 2017 will bring an exciting programme of displays, conservation and photographic demonstrations, ensuring that this extraordinary collection is preserved and presented for ever, for everyone.

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For more information, please visit us: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock

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