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Thousands of Chambré Hardman photos preserved during Liverpool lockdown

Conservators have worked through the Coronavirus pandemic to catalogue and digitise thousands of previously unseen photographs taken by leading Liverpool photographer Edward Chambré Hardman.

The two-year Hardmans Unpacked project was launched in 2019 to protect and conserve key parts of the vast Chambré Hardman archive for the future.

The archive contains more than 140,000 photographic prints and negatives dating from the 1920s to 1970s, along with business records and personal papers.

Together they help to provide unique insight into the work and personal life of Liverpool’s foremost portrait and landscape photographer and record a fascinating social history of the mid-20th century.

The National Trust-run Hardmans' House in Rodney Street, where the celebrated snapper had his studio, has been closed to the public for the past 12 months.

But behind the scenes the project team has worked under Covid restrictions to uncover thousands of uncatalogued photographs and carried out vital conservation work, including saving images on photographic negatives which were deteriorating and emitting toxic gases with a vinegar-like smell.

Chambré Hardman used old margarine boxes in which to store the cellulose nitrate and acetate plastic base negatives.

Above: Edward Chambré Hardman. ©National Trust Images/Edward Chambré Hardman Collection

Top: A selection of uncatalogued photographic prints. ©National Trust Images

Up to 10,000 items, the majority of them photographs, are being catalogued and conserved and will be digitised so the public can access them online.

Project archivist Lindsey Sutton says: “It was really disappointing to experience such a big set-back to the project and, like a lot of people, we had to find a way to work from home.

“While we still managed to achieve a lot considering the circumstances, it was a huge relief to be face-to-face with Hardman’s incredible images when lockdown restrictions were lifted.

“Despite further lockdowns, we’re thrilled to have been able to continue our work to protect the collection for the public.”

The studio at the Hardman House at 59 Rodney Street. ©National Trust Images

Katie Taylor, cultural heritage curator for the National Trust, says: “E Chambré Hardman’s photographs are such an important record of 20th century life in Liverpool and Britain, and this project will help us to better understand them.

"It will also help us to explore and understand other aspects of the collection such as the photographs he took of 1910s India during his time in the 8th Ghurka Rifles.

“Overall, this collection is arguably the largest of its kind by a photographer in Europe, if not the world, and we’re so proud to care for it. Thanks to the support of the Archives Revealed programme, we hope more people can discover just how special these photographs are.”

Chambré Hardman and his wife Margaret, also an accomplished photographer, lived at the Rodney Street house for more than 40 years and visitors to the attraction can see their private living quarters as well as his studio and darkroom.

Hardmans Unpacked has been funded through the Archives Revealed programme together with money from the National Trust and private donations, and delivered in conjunction with Liverpool Records Office.

It is hoped The Hardmans' House will reopen to the public later this year. More details are available HERE


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