The history of The Collection of Prints and Photographs

In 1902, a large part of the library's stock of maps and images was gathered in one collection. Chief Librarian H.O. Lange was responsible for the merger.

Library staff among books and bookshelves. Older

Ophav ukendt

The new collection of images included Müllers picture gallery (acquired in 1796), the topographical collection, the Danish portrait collection (established in 1870) and the foreign portrait collection (established in 1892). These were procurements, transferred copies from the Royal Collection of Graphic Art and copperplates, which were collected on the basis of the new and comprehensive Legal Deposit Act introduced in 1781. 

The collection is growing in scope

Bjørn Ochsner, MA in Philosophy, became very important for the collection during the 20th century. He took over as head of the department in April 1944 and managed the collection until 1980. From the statement "Map and Image Collection 1944", which was probably prepared in connection with Ochsner's appointment, it appears that the collection at that time consisted of:

  • 14,000 Danish and 10,000 foreign portraits in print
  • 5,000 Danish and 3,000 foreign portraits in photography
  • 4,000 Danish and 1,000 foreign historical magazines
  • 16,000 Danish and 2,000 foreign topographical magazines
  • 120,000 postcards
  • Müller's picture gallery
  • Frederik V's Atlas
  • cards and more

Ochsner was an energetic leader who acquired many smaller collections of images through his outreach work:

  • private donations from living persons as well as from estates of deceased persons
  • photo archives
    • Herdis and Herman Jacobsen
    • Laurberg and Gad
    • Johs. Hauerslev
    • royal court photographer Peter Elfelt
    • press photographer Holger Damgaard
    • commercial photographer Sven Türck
    • Hans Robertson
    • Rie Nissen
  • archives from daily newspapers, publishers etcetera
    • Carl Allers Etablissement
    • Gyldendals Forlag
    • Stenders Kunstforlag
    • Aftenbladet
    • Dagens Nyheder
  • large aerial photograph collections

In addition to the large individual acquisitions, the collection grew by approximately 50,000 magazines a year for a significant amount of time. In 1980, the collection consisted of more than three million units.

Under Ochsner, the library acquired famous photographs by internationally renowned photographers such as:

  • Roger Fenton
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Francis Frith
  • Louis de Clercq
  • Gustave Le Gray
  • Francis Bedford
  • Maxime Du Camp
  • Henry Fox Talbot

He also purchased photographs of a documentary and artistic nature by prominent Danish photographers.

New sub-collections are added

In 1970, the sub-collection The Photo-Historical Collection was created with a collection of examples of early positive techniques such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, vitrotypes, ferrotypes, pannotypes (ca. 1840 - ca. 1920), negative-positive processes such as calotypes, cyanotypes, albumen prints, collodion processes etc., photogravure, woodbury types (photoglypties), Albertypes as well as carte de visites and cabinet cards, photo albums, stereograms and stereoscopic devices, etcetera, and also photo-historical magazines with Danish and foreign photographers' works.

In 1981, the library and Københavns Bymuseum (now Museum of Copenhagen) bought royal court photographer Peter Elfelt's (1866-1931) archive with 400,000 photos of people and places in Copenhagen.

In 1989, the Aerial Photograph Collection drastically increased when the library acquired Sylvest Jensen's collection. Today it has approximately 5,2 million units. The collection, which contains both negatives and positives, consists primarily of classic oblique photographs of farms and houses from the period 1936-1992. The collection also features a large number of vertical photographs that were originally produced for mapping or military purposes.

The photo-historical collection formed the basis for the national photo museum, which Bjørn Ochsner had already proposed the Minister of Culture establish in 1980. The National Museum of Photography got its name in 1996, and when The Black Diamond was completed in 1999, the museum moved into the current exhibition spaces.

Four years later, another museum opened with a collection under The Collection of Prints and Photographs, namely the Museum of Danish Cartoon Art, which opened its doors in 2000.

Both museums belong, like the rest of The Collection of Prints and Photographs, to the library's special collections. The collection of cartoon art contains more than 150,000 original newspaper drawings today, and the national photo collection has more than 20,000 photographs.

The collection is still growing

We continue to collect physical images for The Collection of Prints and Photographs through donations and procurements. Digital images are also collected. This is done primarily through Netarkivet, which archives the Danish part of the Internet and thus a huge amount of images, along with an extensive part of the Danish visual cultural heritage today.