With nearly a million examples, the collection tells the story of photography over two and a half centuries, helping us understand why and how pictures are made and the important role the medium has had in shaping visual culture. Rightly celebrated for rich holdings in 19th-century Asian, Native American, maritime and early American photographs, it also includes modern and contemporary art and represents hundreds of different techniques, from paper negative to digital.
The collection began with the acquisition in 1840 of Vincent Chevalier's Daguerreotype of Pont Neuf in Paris, made in 1839, the year of photography's invention. Since that time it has grown to encompass a large collection of early images, including works by pioneering photographers William Henry Fox Talbot, Southworth and Hawes and Antoine Claudet. The depth of the collection in certain areas is truly extraordinary and includes major archives such as those of Edwin Hale Lincoln, Lala Deen Dayal, and Samuel Chamberlain, the complete set of exhibition prints for Edward S. Curtis' North American Indian portfolio, more than 200 rare Civil War photographs by Matthew Brady, and a comprehensive holding of photographs of the Philippines and American Samoa. Recent acquisitions include vintage works by Diane Arbus, Nicholas Nixon and Milton Rogovin, enriching the modern and contemporary collection and complementing a handsome group of photographs by modernist master Walker Evans.
Self Portrait of Childhood, 1984
Museum purchase, 1999
America II, 1998
Gift of C. Franklin Sayre, 2007
Portrait of Charles W. Upham and Henry K. Oliver, about 1847
Gift of Dr. Henry K. Oliver, 1911.
Woman at Toilette, 1880
Edward Morse Collection
Samoan Woman, 1880-1889
Gift of Arthur Sewall 2nd and Mrs. Loyall F. Sewall, 1960
A Royal Family, 1880-1905
Culture of the Streets, about 1977-1987
Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 1995.
Rock on a Pedestal of Ice, Tibet, about 1864
Museum purchase, 2001
Off the Beverly Shore, 1883-1888
Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Henry P. Sturgis, about 1852
Active in the United Kingdom
Gift of Mrs. Henry P. Sturgis, 1892
Untitled, Two Women in Malaya, 1860-1869
Gift of Mrs. Sumner Pingree, 1936
House in China, 1950s
Museum purchase, 2005
Hancock, Massachusetts, 1930s
Japanese Junks, about 1898
Andamanese Group with Mr. Homfray, Their Keeper, Photographed at Calcutta, 1865
Haschelti-Yeibichai (Navajo), 1904
Gift of Charles Goddard Weld, 1906
Lower West Side, Buffalo, 1972-77
Gift of William and Marilyn Braunstein, 2008
Untitled, Japanese Waterfall, 1908
Museum purchase, 2001
Women and Children of the Fishing Port of Whitby, England, about 1890
Gift of the Concord Free Public Library, 1949
Pont Neuf, Paris, about 1839
Gift of John Burley, 1858
Indian Pipes, about 1929-1940
Gift of Linda Parker, 1988.
From the album Monotropa Uniflora
The Island Pagoda, 1873
Gift of the Estate of Mrs. Anthony Rives, 1973
From the album Foochow and the River Min
Mortar Schooner, Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, 1863
Provincetown, Ma, 1751, 1931 (printed in the early 1960s)
Gift of Joan and Clark Worswick, 2001.
Gift of James and Margie Krebs, 2008