Collection Spotlight: The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography

Bridgeman Images is delighted to announce its representation of the extraordinary Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography

 

photo of American Soldier Vaccination in the Field, WWI, 1915-18 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
American Soldier Vaccination in the Field, WWI, 1915-18 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

The Burns Archive holds the largest private collection of early medical and historical photography. Founded in the late 1970s, it contains over one million photographic images that begin at the dawn of both photography and modern medicine.

 

image of Dr. Amy F. Rowland with a Microscope, Cleveland, OH, USA, 1930 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Dr. Amy F. Rowland with a Microscope, Cleveland, OH, USA, 1930 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

It is recognized as the most important private comprehensive collection of early historic photography and was rated as “One of America’s Top 100 Collections”.

 

sepia photo of Military Scientist at Lab Table, c.1900 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Military Scientist at Lab Table, c.1900 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

The collection was established and continues to be curated by Stanley B. Burns, MD, a New York ophthalmologist; it remains a family-run archive with his daughter, Elizabeth Burns, at the helm.

 

photo of an american soldier giving vaccination to a boy Refugees Inoculated in Flood Area, Forrest City, AK, USA, 1927 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Refugees Inoculated in Flood Area, Forrest City, AK, USA, 1927 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

The Burns Archive provides great insight into medical practices that date back as early as the 1800s. It has influenced television shows such as Cinemax/HBO’s The Knick, a medical drama set in the early 1900s, with Dr. Burns and Elizabeth Burns serving as advisers on the program to corroborate its medical accuracy.

 

vintage photo of a Mental Patient in Straight Jacket, c.1890 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Mental Patient in Straight Jacket, c.1890 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

They have also advised on the PBS show Mercy Street, a medical drama set during the American Civil War, as well as contributing images and advising on other PBS programs as well as countless documentaries and feature films such as including Total Recall (1990), Starship Troopers (1997), The Others (2001), Gangs of New York (2002), Men In Black 3 (2012) The Big Sick (2017) and The Irishman (2019).

 

photo of an american ambulance from 1910 Four Attendants and a Doctor Pose with Methodist Episcopal Hospital Motor Ambulance, Brooklyn NY, Brooklyn NY, c.1910 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Four Attendants and a Doctor Pose with Methodist Episcopal Hospital Motor Ambulance, Brooklyn NY, Brooklyn NY, c.1910 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

image of French nurses assisting a doctor preparing a vaccination Nurses Watching Doctor Prepare a Vaccine, France, France, c.1910 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Nurses Watching Doctor Prepare a Vaccine, France, France, c.1910 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

With the current administration of Covid-19 vaccines around the world, the archive’s content takes on a new context. They hold many images that show the manufacturing, storage, and administration of vaccinations from across the world and spanning decades. Images include Professor Gaston Ramon, a French veterinarian who discovered a method for boosting the effectiveness of the vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus in the 1920s.

 

portrait of Professor Gaston Ramon with his Diphtheria Vaccine, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, September 1941 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Professor Gaston Ramon with his Diphtheria Vaccine, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, September 1941 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

photo of Diphtheria Vaccines, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, 1943 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Diphtheria Vaccines, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, 1943 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

Other images include the administration of vaccines to World War I soldiers in Poland and the United States, the administration of the rabies vaccine in 1900’s France, and the administration of vaccinations by missionaries in Africa in the 1920s.

 

photo of Two Scientists with a Rabid Rabbit, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, c.1915 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Two Scientists with a Rabid Rabbit, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France, c.1915 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

image of German Soldiers Receiving Vaccines, WWI, Poland, 1915-18 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
German Soldiers Receiving Vaccines, WWI, Poland, 1915-18 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

photograph of Catholic Missionaries Administering Vaccinations, Africa, Africa, c.1920 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Catholic Missionaries Administering Vaccinations, Africa, Africa, c.1920 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

Photography is a time capsule that provides a literal look into the past. Early medical photography is a niche subject that largely gets forgotten in favor of text records, but each photograph is its own unique tale that deserves to be preserved.

 

image of a Dual Cycle Ambulance Demonstrated at Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, 1939 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Dual Cycle Ambulance Demonstrated at Birmingham, Birmingham, UK, 1939 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

These photographs provide the context and details that are left out of the medical text. It is that aspect of preserving the visual history of medicine that started Dr. Burns on this journey and why he continues it to this day. 

 
photograph of a Psychological Examination Testing Device, Columbia University, New York, NY, US, c.1920 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Psychological Examination Testing Device, Columbia University, New York, NY, US, c.1920 (silver gelatin print) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 

 

Would you like to see more images from The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography available on our website? View our selection. 

 

For any further information about this and other collections, please do not hesitate to contact us. 

 

 

image of Masked Nurses Attend to Infants at Hospital Saint-Michel, Paris, Paris, France, c.1935 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images
Masked Nurses Attend to Infants at Hospital Saint-Michel, Paris, Paris, France, c.1935 (postcard) / Private Collection / The Burns Archive and Museum of Historical Photography / Bridgeman Images

 


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