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Historians and scholars write open letter to The Times over proposed cuts to archive

More than 100 historians, scholars and photographers have signed an open letter calling for an internationally important photography collection to be saved.

The Library of Birmingham’s photography collection faces closure and its staff will be made redundant as part of a cuts programme.

A letter in today’s Times newspaper, signed by 119 people, calls for the Government to step in to save the archive as a major national and regional historical and contemporary treasure.


Professor Elizabeth Edwards, Director of the Photographic History Research Centre (PHRC) at De Montfort University, is a key signatory along with Dr Michael Pritchard, director general of the Royal Photographic Society.

The PHRC is the largest group of photographic historians in the country and students use the Library of Birmingham’s archive as part of their studies. Professor Edwards commented: “I simply could not have written my last book The Camera as Historian: Amateur Photographers and Historical Imagination 1885-1918  without access to this wonderful collection. It was central to my thinking.”

Others signatories include representatives from the UK’s leading universities, museums and organisations involved in photography plus academics, curators and photographers.

The letter reads: “The library’s holdings, built since the 19th century, are of major importance from pioneers of photography as well as the archives of contemporary British photographers.

“In recent decades the collection has attracted more than £1million in sponsorship in order to mount major exhibitions and undertake vital conservation.

“At a time when the government is encouraging such funding partnerships, we believe that the collection should be protected and used for the social, cultural and educational benefit for all.”

Public consultation on the cuts programme is due to close on 12 January by Birmingham City Council.

Posted on Thursday 8th January 2015

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