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Photographs from the Alfred Duggan-Cronin archives in the McGregor Museum, Kimberley

Zulu Women, Kwa-Zulu Natal, circa 1930. Glass plate negatives, 4 x 5 inches. Duggan-Cronin Collection, McGregor Museum, Kimberley, South Africa. © Duggan-Cronin Museum

The Cape Town-based Photographic Legacy Project (PLP) has been selected to receive a Bank of America Art Conservation Project 2024 grant. The grant will allow the project to help the McGregor Museum in Kimberley conserve and digitise Alfred Duggan-Cronin’s photographs, including creating metadata. 

The Duggan-Cronin archive consists of 5,414 ethnographic images that have been digitised, which are uncleaned and ungraded scans, and 3,000 photographs that have not been accessioned, categorised or digitised. The negatives and prints require extensive treatment to extend their life.  

Between 1919 and 1939, Alfred Duggan-Cronin, a photographer from Kimberley, travelled over 80,000 miles [130,000 km] 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. He documented their way of life, dress, dwellings and cultural practices, creating works of art in their own right.  

The McGregor Museum in Kimberley approached the Photographic Legacy Project 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. The 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. 

Paul Weinberg, curator of the PLP, said, “Without adequate and sustainable commitments to preserve Africa’s photographic heritage, significant collections could be lost forever. We acknowledge and appreciate the valuable role of the Bank of America in assisting the PLP initiative in protecting and preserving this valuable African photographic archive and ensuring it is accessible for educational and research purposes.” 

The inadequate and unsustainable commitment towards preserving photographic heritage in Africa poses a significant risk to physical and digital collections, which could be lost forever. To address this issue, the PLP has taken the initiative to protect valuable African photographic collections by ensuring they remain on the continent and are made widely accessible for educational and research purposes. This effort aims to safeguard these collections from being lost due to poor preservation practices and to ensure their long-term sustainability. 

The preservation of the Duggan-Cronin archive is one of 24 art conservation projects announced by Bank of America. The recipients represent diverse artistic styles, media, and cultural traditions from 11 countries, including South Africa, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, the Netherlands, India, and Japan. 

Brian Siegel, Global Arts, Culture & Heritage Executive at Bank of America, said, “The Art Conservation Project reflects our longstanding commitment to cultural history and serves as the basis for our support of conservation and education programs. These programs and the individuals carrying them out are just part of a larger ecosystem working to preserve and protect cultural treasures for future generations.” 

The Bank of America Art Conservation Project 2024 grant aims to preserve and protect cultural treasures for future generations. Since 2010, the project has supported the preservation of paintings, sculptures, and archaeological and architectural works of critical importance to cultural heritage and art history. More than 261 projects in 40 countries, led by non-profit cultural institutions, have received funding to conserve historically or culturally significant works of art at risk of deterioration. /ends 

The Art Conservation Project is a key element of Bank of America’s program of arts support worldwide, and part of the company’s environmental, social and governance program. Bank of America believes in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies, and create greater cultural understanding. The program includes loans of its private art collection to museums at no cost, sponsorships, and grants to arts organizations for arts education, as well as the preservation of cultural treasures. For more information, please visit the Art Conservation Project website.   

For more information, please visit Photography Legacy Project and Bank of America.

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