A collection of some 72,000 color photographs from the early 20th century are now freely available online for the first time, in high resolution, courtesy of the Albert-Kahn Museum in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. Offering a glimpse of a long-lost world, these century-old images were created using autochrome technology—an early color photography process that had then only just become commercially available.
The museum, which reopened in April after an extensive five-year renovation of both its building and digital portal, houses a vast trove of photographs and film assembled by the French banker and keen philanthropist Albert Kahn.
The archival project, which began in 1908, sought to document different cultures from around the world, including those in Brazil, the Middle East, Scandinavia, and West Africa. Its mission was to “preserve once and for all certain aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is only a matter of time,” as Kahn correctly predicted.
Khan accompanied two professional photographers, Stéphane Passet and August Léon, on these major international expeditions until the stock market crash put an end to the project.
Now his incredible record is easier than ever to search and discover, with most of the images falling under a Creative Commons license so they can be shared and reused.
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