100 years of Scottish photography secured for the nation

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An exceptional collection of historic photographs that captures a century of life in Scotland is to be shared with the public following a special collaboration between the National Library of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland.

More than 14,000 images – dating from the earliest days of photography in the 1840s through to the 1940s – have been jointly acquired with support from the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund.

The collection covers an expansive range of subjects – including family portraits, working life, street scenes, sporting pursuits, shops, trams, tenements, mountains and monuments. Until now, it was one of the last great collections of Scottish photography still in private hands.

The collection was put together by photography enthusiast Murray MacKinnon, who established a successful chain of film-processing stores in the 1980s, starting from his pharmacy in Dyce, near Aberdeen.

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop welcomed the public acquisition.

She said: ‘The MacKinnon collection is one of the most remarkable collections of Scottish photography and an invaluable resource for researchers, students and the wider public. I am delighted that £300,000 of Scottish Government funding has supported the acquisition, curation, touring and digitisation of this collection, preventing it from being broken up or sold overseas.’

The collection contains an exquisite view of Loch Katrine by William Henry Fox Talbot, who travelled to Scotland in the autumn of 1844.

Talbot was the inventor of the calotype, a negative-positive paper process that was patented around the world but, importantly, not in Scotland, allowing for free use and experimentation. As a result, early Scottish photographers were encouraged to take up the new technology, becoming key figures in developing its potential as both document and art form within its first two decades.