A snapshot in time

The Hardmans’ House, Liverpool

Renowned portrait and landscape photographer Edward Chambré Hardman (1898-1988) and his wife Margaret (1909-1970) ran a photography studio from their townhouse home in Liverpool, a Georgian building now owned by the National Trust. The building’s 1950s interior, including the studio (below), remains in situ to this day, and the Trust has recently undertaken a significant conservation project, saving some 16,000 of the Hardmans’ photographic prints, negatives, and documents.

IMAGE: © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

The Hardman Collection, once thought to contain a total of c.140,000 items, is ‘the only known 20th-century collection where a photographer’s entire output has been preserved intact’, the Trust said. The recent project, however (run in partnership with Liverpool Record Office, where most of the collection is held, and funded by Archives Revealed, a programme supported by the National Archives, the Pilgrim Trust, and the Wolfson Foundation), has indicated that the collection’s true scale may even be double previous estimates.

A portrait of an unknown theatre production – shown before (above) and after (below) – is one among thousands of newly conserved prints. Alex Koukos, conservator at the National Trust, said: ‘When we began to prioritise items, we found most were in relatively good condition, and simply needed cleaning and rehousing into new, more suitable storage boxes… However, there were many that had been affected by ageing, inappropriate handling, and past storage conditions. Specialist techniques have been used to treat damage such as creases, folds, tears, soiling, and mould in order to preserve the items.’ Some prints and negatives had even suffered chemical damage, but with targeted testing and new storage solutions the team has also been able to prevent further deterioration of these at-risk items, Alex added.

Around 4,600 photographic prints, negatives, and paper records have now been digitised for online publication later this year, and a further 5,000 items have been catalogued. Thanks to the support of National Trust members and private donors, moreover, work is continuing both at Liverpool Record Office and at the Hardmans’ House in Liverpool, where a conservation studio has been set up on the building’s top floor.

The Hardmans’ House will be open for limited guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays until 29 October. To book, and for more details, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hardmans-house.

Text: H Blair
Images: © National Trust/The Hardmans’ House, unless otherwise stated.
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