Photographic collections: Introduction

In 1839 a close friendship between two great scientists, the British inventor of photography and the Principal of the United College of St Andrews, was the genesis of what is now known as the University of St Andrews Library Photographic Collection. It was in St Andrews that the earliest practitioners of photography in Scotland would hone their skills and master this new science and art, taking influential first steps and pioneering notions of the medium's potential.

In the 1970s the University Library began formally collecting photography, establishing its historical, educational, and artistic importance within the university and to the greater public. With momentum building, successions of vast photographic acquisitions would add rare and unique images from across the British Isles. Through a marriage of several generations of seminal photographers as well as previously hidden luminaries, we now present a world-class collection to an international audience for both academic and personal research. It provides an extensive cross-disciplinary primary resource, documenting the socio-cultural transformation of Scotland and beyond from the 1840s onward.

Since the 1990s, striving to bring history to bear on the present through digitisation and the online presentation of historic photography, we have extended the collection's audience far beyond its immediate community. Now internationally recognised, photography's rich and influential role in social, cultural, historic and artistic development is made manifest and increasingly accessible through new and engaging technologies.

The collection numbers nearly one million photographs, existing in a wide variety of formats, including negatives on glass and film of varying sizes, lantern slides, prints ranging in vintage from salt paper to modern processes, postcards and transparencies.

Collecting areas