The Fenton Collection at Lacock

A Kodak no 2. Bulls-eye box camera with leather case; c.1900.

A historic photographic collection - known as the Fenton Collection - was transferred from the British Film Institute to the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock, Britain's birthplace of photography.

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 and the British Film Institute (BFI), the Fenton Collection found a new home at the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock.

What is the Fenton Collection?

The collection comprises more than 2,000 cameras, projectors, viewers, darkroom equipment and optical devices from the eighteenth century to the late 1980s, as well as more than 5,000 photographic images ranging from the earliest processes through to the first part of the twentieth century.

A sliding back portrait camera, dating from around 1860, part of the Fenton Collection
A sliding back portrait camera, circa 1860 from the Fenton Collection
A sliding back portrait camera, dating from around 1860, part of the Fenton Collection

 

The collection 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 was brought back into the light at the Fox Talbot Museum at Lacock.

Why the Fox Talbot Museum?

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.

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 worked with skilled conservators to catalogue and digitalise more than 7,000 objects in the collection, often in front of visitors, bringing the history of photography to life in a completely new way.

Fenton Project volunteers Peter and Ros with the collection
Fenton Project volunteers Peter and Ros with the collection
Fenton Project volunteers Peter and Ros with the collection

What is happening now?

When the Fenton Collection arrived at Lacock’s Fox Talbot Museum, it was estimated to contain approximately 3,500 photographs, around 500 cameras, and other items, such as projectors and darkroom equipment. However, these numbers were something of an under-estimate. During the project the volunteers catalogued more than 7,000 separate objects, including a wide range of photographs, cameras and photographic accessories.

Alongside the cataloguing, our volunteer photographers built a comprehensive photographic inventory of the technology collection, whilst others were trained in scanning to digitise the photographs. The photographic inventory includes thousands of digital images of cameras and related technology, and more than 7,000 scanned photographs.

Bringing the Fenton Collection to Lacock ensures this extraordinary collection is preserved and presented for ever, for everyone.  

A Kodak No 3 Folding Brownie Model A, c.1910
A Kodak No 3 Folding Brownie Model A, c.1910
A Kodak No 3 Folding Brownie Model A, c.1910