Manchester Art Gallery > Collections

The Gallery of Costume is delighted to have been awarded a generous grant from the Getty Foundation to enable us to sort, organise and make accessible our photographic archive to support research and scholarship through web access.

The Gallery of Costume photograph collection forms part of the significant library and archive accumulated by Drs C Willett and Phillis Cunnington during the 1930s. Since 1947 when Manchester Corporation acquired the archives, they have been considerably expanded and are now the most comprehensive specialist resource for dress study outside London.

The archive of images comprises over 25,000 portrait photographs dating from the 1840s onwards, although the bulk of the photographs are from the period 1860 - 1914. Many of the images are from photographic studios, with formal backdrops and careful lighting, but others are taken outdoors by travelling photographers. Although many sitters are middle class or aristocratic, they sometimes chose to have their portraits in sporting or riding dress, or else showing their profession, such as clergymen or school teachers. Other, rarer images are of labouring people, including servants or nurses, and rural and urban workers. One particular highlight of the collection is an important album dating from 1865 showing fifty images of female Welsh Iron workers from Tredegar in their working dress.

The collection here is a representative sample of the larger collection and will be updated as the documentation project continues.

Visit the Gallery of Costume website for more information.

Supported by The Getty Foundation

Getty Foundation

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