Photographic portrait archive

Platt Hall, Getty Photographic Archive

25,000 portrait photographs

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 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 Tregedar in their working dress.

You can see a selection from the Photographic portrait archive on our flickr pages.

If you would like more information or to give us some feedback on our work please contact Miles Lambert, Senior Manager.

Tel: +44 (0) 161 245 7245

Getty Foundation

Photographic portrait archive on flickr

Female workers from the Tredegar ironworks in ragged clothing
Explore examples from this extensive collection on flickr.

Collection themes

Platt Hall, collections related themes
Have you ever wondered what Victorian women wore for cycling or playing tennis? Find out more here.

Picturing the family

Father posing with two teenage sons and a daughter
A free Open University resource for interpreting historical family photos.