Picturing China: An AHRC 10th Anniversary film
In the second of a series of specially commissioned films to mark the AHRC’s 10th Anniversary year, we look back to 2006, and the ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project at the University of Bristol.
The ‘Historical Photographs of China’ project has been seeking out families who have historic links with China, borrowing their sometimes extensive family photograph collections, digitizing them, and placing them on an open access website. With funding from the AHRC (through the British Inter-university China Centre), the British Academy, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation and private sponsors, the project has so far placed over 8,300 images online, dating from as early as the 1860s.
The collection comes from bankers, missionaries, customs staff, policemen and diplomats, amongst many others. Lodged away in attics and cupboards, these images include snapshots of expatriate social life, scenes of everyday Chinese life, and records of momentous political events. Altogether they form a unique virtual archive for China, where wars and revolutions inflicted great damage on the sites and ways of life recorded, and destroyed much of the stock of historic visual and other records.
The project has been a huge success both in the UK and in China, with several exhibitions of the photographs taking place in both countries. In 2013 the project became one of first to feature in the AHRC’s Virtual Image Gallery.
Banner image: detail of 'Meat shop, Kunming, 1945', copyright Rosemary Booker 2010, photograph by Arthur Leonard Fiddament