Home News Project to digitise and conserve Alfred Duggan-Cronin’s photographs

Project to digitise and conserve Alfred Duggan-Cronin’s photographs

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A historical collection of photographs, “Mining a Lode of History”, that were captured by Alfred Duggan-Cronin are being restored and digitally archived through a grant that was received from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project 2024 through the Photographic Legacy Project.

Madakana on the Great Kei River with three Tembu men, 1930. Picture: Duggan-Cronin Collection, McGregor Museum, Kimberley, South Africa

A HISTORICAL collection of photographs, “Mining a Lode of History”, that were captured by Alfred Duggan-Cronin are being restored and digitally archived through a grant that was received from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project 2024 through the Photographic Legacy Project (PLP).

PLP curator Paul Weinberg stated that the photographs that were stored at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley were creative works in their own right, documenting life, dress, dwellings and cultural practices between 1919 and 1939.

“Duggan-Cronin, a photographer from Kimberley, travelled over 130,000 kilometres on at least 18 expeditions to capture the indigenous peoples of southern Africa, such as the San, Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi, Bachope and Herero.”

Weinberg said the collection consisted of 5,414 ethnographic images that have been digitised, which are uncleaned and ungraded scans, and 3,000 photographs that have yet to be categorised and digitised.

“The negatives and prints require extensive treatment to extend their life.”

He added that they were working in partnership with the McGregor Museum on the year- long project.

“This valuable collection will be conserved and will be accessible to the world for education and research through a website with the use of metadata.

“The McGregor Museum approached the Photographic Legacy Project, which is based in Cape Town, to provide a sustainable solution that would help conserve and treat the photographs and ensure that the archive remains accessible for research and heritage purposes.”

Zulu Women, KwaZulu-Natal, circa 1930. Picture: Duggan-Cronin Collection, McGregor Museum, Kimberley, South Africa

Weinberg stated that the Duggan-Cronin archive was one of 24 art conservation projects around the world that were funded by the Bank of America.

“The Cape Town-based Photographic Legacy Project (PLP) was created to acknowledge the significant role African photographers played in developing photography’s global presence. It celebrates Africa’s photographic heritage as a unique source for documenting and understanding the continent’s past, present, and future.”

Weinberg emphasised the vital role that the McGregor Museum played in preserving South Africa’s history.

“The discovery of diamonds in the mid-19th century significantly shaped the region’s history and development. The museum’s archaeologists and palaeontologists have played a crucial role in unearthing and preserving both the ancient and more recent history of South Africa, making it accessible to the public. Without archives, we have no memory.”

Weinberg said it was a privilege to encounter the Duggan-Cronin archive.

“His incredible commitment to documenting indigenous groups in southern Africa, working at a time when travel was difficult and the photographic, technical process was challenging.

“Alfred Duggan-Cronin’s life and work provide an intimate glimpse into the landscape of South Africa in the early 20th century, capturing the intricate tapestry of its peoples and the difficult working conditions of those who mined minerals. His legacy provides valuable insights into a pivotal era in South African history.”

Mpondomise Chief Isaac Matiwana, of the Qumbu Nation. Picture: Duggan-Cronin Collection, McGregor Museum, Kimberley, South Africa
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