From company museum to national collection, 1927-2023
: telling the story of popular photography through the Kodak Museum Collection

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In 1985, the Kodak Museum, a company museum that had been collecting and communicating the history of photography at the Kodak Works factory in Harrow, London, since 1927, was transferred to the newly established National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (NMPFT), in Bradford, West Yorkshire. There, the Kodak Museum became a museum within a museum, when it was redeveloped to tell the story of popular photography in the NMPFT’s new Kodak Wing. A version of the Kodak Museum continues today as the Kodak Gallery, at what is now known as the National Science and Media Museum (NSMM).

As photographic practices and photographic industries have fundamentally changed in the century since the Kodak Museum’s establishment, including the demise of the Kodak company in whose name the collection and galleries were established, thisthesis considers the changing purposes, meanings and uses of the Kodak Museum Collection as it moved from a company museum to a national museum, from the 1920s to the 2020s. During the same period, there have been major changes to both the communication of photographic history and new museological approaches to interpretation and display. The thesis demonstrates how the Kodak Museum’s photography-related material, collected and shaped over fifty-seven years at Kodak by its founding curators, was later redefined, redeveloped and re-interpreted by the NMPFT. Focusing on the communication of popular photographic practices, the Kodak gallery displays at NMPFT utilised the Kodak Museum’s expansive technological, ephemera and advertising collections, seeking to engage museum audiences through new interpretative methods to represent a socio-cultural history of photographic experience. Almost forty years after its Bradford acquisition and redevelopment, the thesis analyses the Kodak Museum Collection’s continuing role as a history of photography collection on permanent display at NSMM. It explores its past purposes, its current position, and its future potential within new gallery developments in the institution, new approaches in photography theory, and as the museum sector engages with new audience agendas.

Situated between the disciplines of history of photography and museum studies, this thesis provides original archival and collections research, visual analyses and new oral histories to argue that the Kodak Museum Collection offers important historical perspectives on popular 2 photographic practices and their shifting institutional frameworks. It does this by offering a comprehensive history of the Kodak Museum Collection and a new historiography of British photography in a museum context.
Date of AwardJul 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorAnnebella Pollen (Supervisor), Darren Newbury (Supervisor), Geoff Belknap (Supervisor) & Toni Booth (Supervisor)

Cite this