Museums and Collections

Agfa photo-historama/ Museum Ludwig, Cologne (Germany)
Photography’s cultural history is the focus of the unique Agfa Photo-Historama collection in Cologne’s Ludwig Contemporary Art Museum. The collection encompasses photographs, cameras, lenses, photo reproduction equipment, as well as books, magazines and other ephemera, much of which comes from the archives of the Agfa Kamerawerk in Munich. Information for the collection comes from a shared web site for the museums of Cologne. In German and English.

Alinari Photography Archive and Museum, Florence
The collections of the Alinari family photography firm tell a fascinating story of history and continuity in photography. Founded in Florence in the early years of the medium, Fratelli Alinari, has worked continuously in the field while also dedicating itself, on a grand scale, to the conservation and exhibition of historical and contemporary photographic work. The Alinari Archive is an immense fund of 3,500,000 photographs, some 300,000 of which have been digitized and archived on the Alinari site for commercial and educational use. The Fratelli Alinari Museum of the History of Photography exhibits work from the Archives, often focusing on important Italian and non-Italian photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Italian and English.

American Museum of Photography
This virtual museum seems to achieve a balance between the curatorial research and critical content that goes into physical exhibitions and the succinct writing and image driven nature of web exhibitions. The site includes several intriguing exhibitions dealing with different aspects of the complex and profound impact of photography on American society, history and culture. All images are drawn from the virtual museum’s real life collection of over 5000 historical prints.

Art Institute of Chicago 
The AIC’s impressive photo collection was kick-started in 1949 by Georgia O'Keeffe’s donation of a significant portion of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, some of which can be seen in the nearly 10,000 digitised photos available on the site. Other important bodies of work include Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Eugene Atget, and André Kertész. The Mary L. and Leigh B. Block Photography Study Room makes the AIC’s 18,000 item collection available to researchers. The Photographic Society, a group of photographers and photo-related professionals, works to fund and promote the museum’s photo collection.

Australian Centre for Photography, Paddington 
This cool and elegant site showcases not only the Australian Centre for Photography’s edgy photo-media art and documentary exhibitions, but also its regular schedule of photo courses, talks, workshops and public events meant to bring help people engage with photography in as many ways as possible. Photofile, Australia’s longest running magazine dedicated to fine art photography shares space on the ACP’s site.

Center for Creative Photography, Tucson
Part of the University of Arizona, the CCP manages one of the largest photo collections on the continent. Emphasizing North-American photographers, the Center opens its collections to the public, offering print viewing for the general public and consultations of the archives and collections by appointment. The collections are also the base for the CCP's educational mandate, which features lectures, seminars, free public education programs, research fellowships and internships.

Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleavland Museum's site provides a substantial gallery of meticulously described digitized images, which span from 19th century French and British daguerreotypes and calotypes to contemporary works by likes of Aaron Siskind and Sally Mann.

Exploring the scope of contemporary photography from its historic home in a converted 18th century warehouse in Amsterdam, the Foam organization produces exhibitions in its museum, prints the always surprizing Foam Magazine and manages Foam Editions of works for collectors. Although it keeps a contextual eye on the history of photography, Foam as an organization is concerned with the unfolding story of contemporary photography in all its permutations.

Fotostiftung Schweiz
Fotostiftung Schweiz, or Swiss Foundation of Photography, is an archive and collection focused on the preservation, acquisition and exhibition of primarily Swiss photography. Taken together, the archive and the collection contain over 40 photographic estates and around 40,000 original prints by recognized local and international photographers. The Fotostiftung organizes exhibitions, issues publications on the history of Swiss photography and supports contemporary photography in Switzerland by purchasing recent work. Like most archives, seeing the material that is not on exhibition requires an appointment, but the site does feature a large online catalogue that connects the collections of several photo institutions.

Fuji Film History Museum
Like its American cousin Kodak, the Fujifilm company builds on a strong connection to the history of photography, particularly in the face of the sea-change that is the digital revolution. In the photo business since 1934, Fujifilm has documented its place in photo history within a museum dedicated to medium. The collection follows the evolution of photo processes and camera technology, and offers a rare opportunity to touch antique cameras (well, replicas of antique cameras) and fall in love with the magic of early image-making.

George Eastman House, Rochester NY
The George Eastman House, home of the man who reshaped the photographic medium for 20th century, can claim to be spiritual home of photography, particularly as the historic house and grounds have been converted into the museum that shelters one of the largest photo collections in the world. 400,000 prints and negatives, spanning the history of the medium and featuring some of its greatest artists make up the collection. Keeping the story of photography and film alive and vital through collections, exhibitions, film series, events and lectures – not to mention Flickr, Twitter and a regular podcast - George Eastman House is considered to be a reference in the field.

Getty Center
Installed in its pristine new buildings and gardens, the Getty shows its powerhouse collections to their full advantage. Its photography department was founded fairly recently on the strength of nine varied collections and has been expanding ever since. Research is an important focus for the Center, the fruits of which it shares with the world through its content-rich collection pages. The photo pages break down the collection’s contents by medium (Daguerreotypes, calotypes, cyanotypes, albumen prints) and provide a historical, cultural and/or scientific essay for each image. There is a lot to be learned here.

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center — University of Texas at AustinUnique among photo–collecting institutions, the Ransom Center takes a broad view of photography, with holdings in diverse areas of photography, including fine arts, photojournalism, documentary photography, contemporary art, and literary imagery. In addition to 5 million photographic prints and negatives, you’ll find 400 pieces of original photographic apparatus and more than 35,000 (and counting) books about photographic history, theory, and technique. The Center founded its photography department with the acquisition of the Gernsheim Collection in 1963, at the time the largest privately–owned photohistorical archive in the United States, and has recently taken custodianship of the crown jewel of photojournalism archives, the Magnum Agency collection. The comprehensive nature of their collections has made the Ransom Center a major hub for photo research and scholarship. Both the photo collection and the photo library have excellent searchable online databases, making these rich and diverse holdings accessible

Foundation Henri-Cartier-Bresson
Opening its doors a year before Henri Cartier-Bresson’s passing in 2004, the Foundation that preserves his work in its entirety, now curates three exhibitions a year, organizes a lecture series, screens films daily (including documentaries on Cartier-Bresson), and serves as an exhibition venue for photographers and other visual artists. The Foundation extends its support of photographers by offering a major international grant of 30,000 euros for reportage photography projects that are characterized as ones “that would otherwise be difficult to achieve." 

International Center for Photography 
In their elegant digs on New York’s Avenue of the Americas, the International Center for Photography’s museum exhibits challenging new work while reconsidering the meaning and resonance of historical work. Its substantial photography collections reflect changes in the medium since its inception and is replete with documentary and reportage photography. The museum and collection round out the Center’s comprehensive mission as a school, and a center for photographers.

ISLIP Art Museum
This historic Long Island mansion has become a community supported contemporary art venue that the New York Times describe as the "best facility of its kind outside Manhattan." The Islip Art Museum has clearly become an established art gallery, but one that stays true to its community roots. The Museum offers art classes and workshops for all age groups and also hosts an annual curated exhibition that is an open call to all emerging artists in the tri-state area. 

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division 
The Library is treasure house of remarkable and varied photographic collections that document the history, society and culture of the United States. As the premier public archive in the nation, the Library makes its riches accessible to the public through a sophisticated online catalogue. Meticulous records are illustrated with images offered in “thumbnail” as well as high resolution versions.The Smithsonian is part of the foundation of American cultural identity and the importance of its photographic collections cannot be overstated.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Although not as well known as the Museum’s encyclopedic international art collections (or the famous fossils of the neighboring La Brea tar pits), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has a strong contemporary photography collection that merits attention. LACMA's Wallis Annenberg Photography Department offers a collection that spans the medium's history and explores historical and contemporary image-making processes. Beyond its historical collections, the Museum also collects the work of contemporary international photographers as well as those known and emerging talents on the L.A. scene. The photography department’s modest but well documented online Highlights give a sense of the quality of the exhibitions and programs. 

Maison Europeene de la Photographie, Paris 
A rapid succession of dynamic and collaborative international exhibits makes this Paris center a cultural crossroads for photography. The Maison collects only contemporary photography, citing Robert Frank’s groundbreaking work “The Americans” (1958) as the starting point of their collection. Their sharp website is in French, with a polished English translation. 

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 
The Met’s photographie collection, once overshadowed by the museum’s more famous treasures, has taken its place among the most important in the world. Some outstanding highlights are the early prints gifted to the museum by artist and photography advocate Alfred Stieglitz, as well as the photo archive and personal papers of American icons such as Walker Evans and Diane Arbus.  

Minneapolis Institute for the Arts 
The MIA's wide-ranging photography collection is brilliantly showcased on this site, with a very user-friendly online archive of over 5000 images. Possibly the neatest cluster of great photographs available under one URL. 

MoMA, New York 
America’s preeminent contemporary art institution has long been a champion of cutting-edge fine art photography, but their collection of over 25 000 works is also a testament to the deversity and democracy of the medium. MoMA keeps the discussion going with a series of excellent online photo exhibitions that cover historical and contemporary topics and artists. 

Moscow House of Photography 
Russia’s premier photography institution appears to be five photography organizations rolled into one: exhibitions, contests, festivals, workshops, publications and special projects – the Moscow House does it all. The collections preserve Russia’s divers photographic legacy, while the exhibition schedule mixes historic and contemporary material, both Russian and international. Large online photo galleries give a good sense of current and past exhibitions. The House’s chic website is fully translated into English.  

Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago 
The MoCP's permanent collection - which focuses on post-WW2 American photographers - provides a good overview of the range of intellectual and artistic movements, as well as the analogue and digital processes of the medium’s history. MoCP’ s search engine 'Mobius' probes the collection of over 10 000 photos and photography-related objects, including the unique holdings of the "Farm Security Administration" and “The Midwest Photographers Project” collections. Searches can be saved and shared with others. 

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston 
Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts may have started collecting photography fairly recently, but it has certainly made up for lost time under the expert stewardship of Anne Wilkes Tucker, who has been named “America's Best Curator” by Time Magazine. Tucker has directed the museum’s photography department for all of its 25 years, and the permanent collection now includes work that spans the currents of early 20th century international photography, from pictoralism to abstraction, and features some of the era’s most important photographers. To balance things out, their late 20th century collection focuses on the great documentary work of the time with an emphasis on the mid to late 20th century experiments of photographers Robert Frank, John Baldessari, Robert Cumming, and Lorna Simpson. The Museum’s exhibitions reflect an interest in the untold stories of photography, which has contributed much to the institution’s growing reputation. 

Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego 
The museum’s collection and exhibition schedule are strong on contemporary work that deals with social and historical issues. Its other, complimentary, strength is a commitment to public outreach and public education programs, through lectures, workshops and after-school programs.

National Media Museum, Yorkshire (UK)
Formerly the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, this friendly web site lets you know that the Museum’s mission is didactic. A variety of well-documented online exhibitions explain and illustrate its rich collections. Highlights include the world’s first photographic negative, a wide range of objects tracing the development of photographic equipment, a substantial holding of works and personal papers by British photo pioneer Fox Talbot, an archive of works donated by The Royal Photography Society, as well as contemporary British work by the likes of Eve Arnold and Martin Parr.

New York Public Library Digital Gallery
The fabled New York Public Library’s sophisticated site offers access to a fascinating collection of eight hundred thousand digital images organized by theme or searchable through the site's excellent search engine. Photographs are an important part of this legendary collection and they illustrate a stagering diversity of subjects. 

Oakland Museum of California, Oakland (CA)
The Oakland Museum of California’s photography collection specializes, as does the museum itself, in the Californian perspective. The jewel in their crown is the Dorothea Lange archive, which covers the career of this outstanding documentary photographer. The collection spans from her early portrait work, to the ground breaking documenting of the dust bowl migration, to the repercussions of war on Californian society. The Museum offers an online selection of Lange’s most recognized work for reproduction

One Man’s Eye, Photographs from the Alan Siegel Collection
A gallery of classic photographic works presented from the private collector’s point of view. Alan Siegel comments on selected photos from his thematic galleries, providing personal insight into his choices and the factors that guide his “collector’s eye.” A sophisticated site that beautifully showcases Siegel’s wide ranging, museum level collection.  

Photographic Museum of Humanity
A project that wants to re-imagine the concept of “Museum.” Rather than an exclusive bastion of curated culture, the Photographic Museum of Humanity proposes an open, online gallery showing the best work of an international community of photographers. There is, of course, some curating and editing happening here, but the guiding themes of inclusion and community are reflected in the wide variety of work on display. There is even a “Museum Store” where editors propose selected work for all budgets.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 
Collecting photographs has been a priority for SF MoMA’s since the museum’s beginnings in the 1930s, and major photography shows are a staple in the institution’s exhibition schedules. The photography department’s section of the museum web site features a representative selection of historical and contemporary images from its varied collection.  

SF Camerawork
This is the online resource center for SF Camerawork, the San Francisco based community-minded organization that fosters the work of emerging and mid-career photographers. Exhibitions in their online and physical gallery spaces, a lecture series, workshops and bi-annual publications are there to engage the wider world on photography’s aesthetic and social concerns. The organization’s mentoring program, First Exposures, invites photographers to act locally and teach the craft to youth at risk. 

Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach Community College
The SMP’s s articulate and efficient web site describes this notable regional museum’s exhibitions which are weighted towards documentary and reportage. The permanent collection is strong on 20th century American art photographers; its educational mission presents itself throughout many aspects of the programming.

UC Riverside, California Museum of Photography 
Perhaps because of its university affiliation, the Museum’s perspective is particularly focused on photography’s role in influencing society as a whole, as well as reflecting how photography shapes the lives of individuals. Exhibitions often feature photography and photo-related media explorations on social and cultural themes.  

Victoria & Albert Museum Photo Collection
London’s famed Victoria & Albert Museum has been collecting photographs since 1852 and now has an impressive collection of over 500,000 images, with a solid representation of historical and contemporary work. The site provides an excellent online framework for its collection, including a search engine to find and view digitized collection items, a history of photography as represented by works from the collection, pages of useful links, a reading list for contemporary photography, articles on photo conservation, and most intriguing of all, descriptions of photographs for blind and partially sited visitors.

Winterthur Fotomuseum
Zurich’s Fotomuseum Winterthur features work by contemporary photographers and artists, and the English version of its site offers a sleek online gallery, organized by artist. The 300 photographers and other artists represented include such legends as Robert Frank, August Sander, and Weegee. In addition to the publicly accessible gallery, curators, students, and specialists can register to gain access to the entire online collection. All visitors can purchase various photo books and publications at the museum’s online shop.