The Uffizi, the royal photographic archive with 45 thousand photographs is online and accessible to all

Florence, November 15, 2023 – Il Uffizi Royal Photographic Archive collects over 45,000 photographs made using various techniques: albumen, gelatin, silver salts, carbon prints, halftone photomechanical prints and collotypes. It was founded by the director of the Florentine Galleries, Corrado Ricci, in 1903 with the intention of providing the museum with a photographic collection accessible to the public, and today it lands on the museum’s website and becomes accessible to all.

The archive, thought to be lost, was rediscovered in 2018 during restoration work in some areas that were closed for a long time and reopened during the work on the New Uffizi. These are mainly reproductions of Italian and foreign works of art, taken by about 300 authors including photographers, publishers and printers, but also monuments, landscapes, people and historical events not only in Florence (such as the church of degli Scalzi, a fresco by Tiepolo in Venice during the First World War or the construction of the Malamocco dam, also in the Venetian area). The time period covered by these images stretches from the dawn of photography in the mid-nineteenth century to the 1960s. The collection was discovered five years ago still inside large original wrappers, custom made in the early twentieth century to facilitate consultation and conservation of photographic material. Three vertical cabinets contained small and medium format paintings in 180 drawers with hinged doors, two longitudinal cabinets with 40 sliding shelves contained large formats, and 41 wooden and cardboard boxes were dedicated to the topographical sector of the collection. The photographs were arranged in alphabetical order by author and location and placed in numbered folders, complete with lists and precise identification of the authors of the reproduced works and their depictions. Immediately after the discovery, dusting operations were carried out on the images, as well as maintenance of cabinets and boxes. The digitization works of the fund have therefore been completed. The consultation platform allows you to browse the archive by searching for artists, works, photographers, places and photographic techniques; It is possible to see the front and back of art photographs, people, panoramas, monuments, European cities and exotic places, even by browsing through their folders and viewing the original lists.

The discovery of this rare heritage, which represents one of the most important and oldest historical photo libraries in Italian museums, was accompanied by research into the genesis of the collection and the creation of a study group involving experts in the conservation and history of photography from the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the Universities of Florence and Udine, and the Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz. “Finding a treasure in the attic is everyone’s dream – explains the director of the Uffizi Galleries, Eike Schmidt -. And the photographs that have resurfaced from the hidden rooms of the Uffizi are a treasure in the most literal sense of the word. It is true that their material value is enormous, but the most important thing for all of us is that they tell the story faithfully and poetically. And then there is the added value of seeing how they were stored and consulted. Sophisticated furniture from the early twentieth century can no longer be used because it does not meet the standard, but digitization allows the virtual opening of drawers and doors. Even from your home computer, you will be able to travel through the events of more than a century and admire the works of art and notice their conditions and aspects that are sometimes lost and therefore rare.”

Maurizio Costanzo

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