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Photographics Collection

curator: [email] Martin Jelínek

The Photo Archive contains contemporary documentary photographs as well as historical images - approximately 65,000 negatives, slides and original photographs. The collection of historical documentary photos comprises a number of basic thematic units: collection items, the Central Jewish Museum, Jewish sites and the Holocaust. Photo-documentation of objects owned by the Museum has been carried out on an ongoing basis since 1945 and represents the most extensive unit, which is of particular significance to the Museum's specialist staff.

Between 1942-1945, during the existence of the Central Jewish Museum, some 1,420 negatives documenting the Museum's work were taken. This group also includes negatives that record the activities of institutions where Jews worked under Nazi supervision during the occupation. The photographs of Jewish communities in Bohemia and Moravia bear witness to the existence of Jewish quarters from the time of the First Republic (1918-38) to the present and are also valuable material for the reconstruction of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. The most valuable part of the photographic collection of Jewish sites is a group of large-format photographs by Zikmund Reach, which depicts the Jewish Town of Prague at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries just before it was rebuilt. The last set is connected with the theme of the Holocaust. Apart from scenes from Terezín and labour and concentrations camps, it also includes family snapshots of Czech Jews whose lives were devastated by Nazi persecution.

The oldest part of the collection comprises photographs of Czech Jews and Jewish personalities from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In collaboration with the Photo Studio, an archive of high-quality digital photographs of the Museum's collections is gradually being developed and stored on CD-ROMs. The conditions for digital image processing are currently being streamlined and records of the entire photo collection are being kept on computer as part of long-term programme. In connection with the relocation of the archive to a new depository in February 2001, a review of storage conditions has been launched. Apart from digitization and modern technology, more focused attention will be devoted to the oldest historical photographs in the collection with respect tot he documentation of the life of Bohemian and Moravian Jews in the 20th century.

The Photo Archive is being constantly replenished with new photo documentation. It brings together materials that document the activities of the Museum, in particular Prague-based and regional exhibitions and various social events. In addition, it includes a small video library with documentary films on Jewish themes.

 


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