The photograph collections from the former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum are gradually being catalogued with support from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives. The collections that appear below are available to view at Bristol Archives.
Please note that a very small minority of the images in this collection are of a sensitive nature, and may cause distress. These include images of nudity, violence, deceased persons, people engaged in ritual or ceremonial activity and images taken for anthropological investigation which would not now be considered appropriate. Additionally, where photographs were captioned at the time they were taken, some language has been used which would not be considered acceptable by today’s standards. Phrases such as “original manuscript caption” have been used throughout to make clear where this is the case.
So far, the following catalogues have been published and can be searched online by clicking the links below. To search each collection, click on the link and you can then navigate through the entries, using the tree on the left-hand side of the screen.
J W H Allen was a colonial officer in Malacca in the 1950s and organised the building of a resettlement village at Paya Mengkwan. The collection includes several small photographs of this settlement.
William Berry (1864-1941) lived in Kimberley, South Africa from the late 19th century, and was employed as Workshop Superintendent with De Beers Consolidated Mines. From c.1905 to 1920s he photographed domestic and work scenes. During the Boer War, he directed the building of the 'Long Cecil' gun.
Tom Bloxam, an engineer who worked for Shell Oil in Borneo, was involved in an operation to destroy the oil fields before the Japanese advance in 1941. This small collection consists of his letters home and 45 photographs taken by Bloxam as the oil fields were destroyed.
Frank Lugard Brayne worked in the Indian Civil Service from 1905 to the late 1940s, and was a pioneer of the Village Uplift Scheme which was a movement to improve rural conditions in India. This collection also reflects his time in WW1 when he was based in Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine. His wife Iris Goodeve Brayne compiled a set of scrapbooks covering his career but also reflecting her own interest in health and welfare.
Felice Beato (1832-1909), also known as Felix Beato, was an Italian-British photographer. He was one of the first people to take photographs in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. This album records the Burma military campaigns of 1891/92.
Colin Carlin lived and worked in Zambia until 1973. He subsequently obtained the photograph albums of the Chandor family who lived in Moshi, Tanzania for a period around 1930 and worked at Moshi School. These depict the family, pupils and activities around the school and the area around Arusha.
This collection consists of photographs collected by Crown Agents during the course of their business overseeing large engineering projects to extend the railways. The main series of 115 albums date from 1890 to 1983, and cover many countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast in Africa, Ceylon and Singapore in Asia, Jamaica and Trinidad in the Caribbean. The earlier volumes show the construction of the railways, and include station buildings, bridges, tunnels, local scenery, workers and some group photographs. Later volumes contain images of locomotives, carriages, wagons and other machinery.
This collection chiefly contains publicity photographs from the East African Railways & Harbours Corporation, established in 1948, which operated railways and harbours in Kenya, Tanzania & Uganda. The images include trains, stations, workshops, staff, royal and official visits, harbour views and lake steamers.
Lieutenant Francis Elliott was a District Superintendent of Police and latterly District Commissioner of Jubaland, part of present day Somalia. He was killed in action in Somalia in 1916. This collection contains his photograph album depicting his life, travels and colleagues in Somalia and Kenya, a book on Jubaland written by him and letters which he sent back to his family in England.
This collection consists of two albums of postcards of scenes around Sudan, produced by G N Morhig of the English Pharmacy, dating c.1906. Many of the views were taken in Khartoum and include buildings, portraits of local people and military personnel.
Herbert Bartholomew Gifford lived in India from the 1930s until Indian Independence, serving in the army during WW2. This collection includes films and photographs recording his time there.
Ivan Haslam was an Indian who worked in the Gulf, then East Africa for the Indian High Commissioner before moving to the UK in 1956. There are 3 photograph albums and 12 films recording his time in these countries during the 1940s-1960s. Of particular interest are the films showing his domestic life as part of the Indian community in East Africa in the early 1950s.
This collection has two parts. There are two films by Leon Levson, a Russian emigre to South Africa and professional photographer, dating from 1930s. There are also photograph albums compiled by Dr James MacDonald Troup who was a medical practitioner based in South Africa and a keen amateur photographer, 1930-1938. These are full of images of wildlife, especially in the Kruger National Park.
This collection contains the photographs of the writer and broadcaster Elspeth Huxley. Huxley was brought up in Kenya by her settler farmer parents and is perhaps best known for her memoir "The Flame Trees of Thika" about her African childhood. Her writing career spanned over 70 years, and covered novels, non-fiction works and newspaper articles on a range of subjects including agriculture, travel, politics and African life. Although she travelled widely, Huxley's chief area of expertise and interest was East Africa, and this is where the majority of these images were taken. The collection comprises over 11,000 items in print, negative and slide formats, including scenery, wildlife, the Kikuyu people and images taken during the Mau Mau rebellion.
Small group of photographs and prints showing locomotives in Nigeria. Francis Jaekel worked with Nigerian Railways for 27 years until his retirement in the 1970s.
Showing views of Jamaica, St Vincent and Bermuda, dating from 1860s.Jamaican photographs (ref. 2005/001/152) Some images have been digitised - click here to view
Showing views of Jamaica including the Royal Naval Hospital at Port Royal, 1862.
This collection mainly consists of photograph albums and films showing family and local life, compiled by the Jeans family from their time living in North Borneo (now Sabah) from 1949 to 1963.
These are photographs and postcards, dated 1900-c.1925, collected by a colonial officer whilst working in Nigeria. They include photographs by J A Green of Bonny, Nigeria.
This collection consists of films from 1930s, taken by Colonel John Hamilton Bernard Peyton when he was serving with the army in India, and photographs from Walter and May Dalrymple (Peyton's daughter) mainly dating from 1930s-1940s. Walter Dalrymple was the manager of the Vishnu and Lakshmi Cotton Mill at Sholapur, India.
James Lang Brown served as a District Forestry Officer in Uganda between 1955 and 1964. His collection includes over 1000 colour slides highlighting all aspects of his work and life as a forestry officer in the period up to independence.
This collection consists of 2 photograph albums compiled by Trevor Lewis-Hopkins, an optician who worked in Calcutta, India during the late 1930s. He took photographs of his surroundings and places he visited including scenery and local people.
Parlane Macfarlane was a Civil Engineer who worked for the Kenya and Uganda Railways and Harbours from 1921-1942. These photographs depict some of the key projects and locations which came under his responsibility, chiefly in the Mombasa area around Kilindini Harbour.
This collection contains photographs and loose prints taken or collected by Dr Oswald Marriott who worked at the Peak Hospital in Hong Kong, between approximately 1902 and 1923. The photographs are mainly of Hong Kong where Marriott was based, but also cover his journeys into mainland China, South Korea and Japan
The photographer Mary Hill undertook a number of assignments for the World Bank, photographing engineering projects they had funded in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Singapore during the late 1960s.
These 2 photograph albums show mainly tourist sights in India and Ceylon dating from 1887-88, and were probably acquired by Richard Milne-Redhead (1828-1900), a botanist who travelled and collected plants and seeds.
Photograph albums and loose prints taken by Geoffrey and Yvonne Morey during their travels between 1920-1969. These cover cover large areas of the Commonwealth, including Australia and the Pacific, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. They feature scenery, wildlife, places of interest, local people and customs.
This collection includes films and photographs taken by William Graham Morrison who worked in Nigeria from 1931 to 1939 as a civil engineer with the Nigerian Electricity Supply Company. He was the surveyor for the Hydro Electric Scheme at Jekko Falls and the collection contains information about its construction.
Northern Rhodesia Police Association (ref. 2002/217). Some images have been digitised - click here to view
This collection contains items donated by former members of the Northern Rhodesia Police and their contacts. They include working papers, reports and photographs and are chiefly concerned with events in the run-up to Zambian independence.
Alice and Howard Payne lived in Tientsin (Tianjin) during the first half of the 20th century. The bulk of this collection consists of a series of memory books compiled by Alice Payne, and recording her family's life in China. The volumes include photographs and other memorabilia, and date from c.1890s to 1945.
Photographs taken by Ramsay Weston Phipps and his son Charles Foskett Phipps, primarily consisting of images from their postings abroad while serving with the British Army in India, c.1874-1927.
This collection contains records from various members and generations of the Reillys, who were a military family. The bulk of the collection consists of letters and photographs relating to Northern India and Afghanistan where family members were based, and date from the 1870s to the 1920s.
Eric Robertson moved to Malaya in 1937 to work in forestry, but later became a radio broadcaster during WW2. He met his future wife Peggie Broadhead who was also working for the Malaya Broadcasting Corporation on the experimental broadcasts for schools. This collection includes photographs of forestry projects and radio scripts from 1939-1945.
Papers and photographs illustrating the work of Dr Malcolm Ruel, anthropologist, who worked with the Banyang people in Cameroon and the Kuria people in Kenya from the 1950s onwards.
Sir Sidney Sitwell and his son Sisson both worked in India during a period spanning some 50 years from the 1890s to 1940s. The collection contains photographs which document aspects of their lives and work and also includes a mid-Victorian family album from the early days of photography.
Joseph Stephens joined the British Army and departed for India in 1945, serving in Northern India (later Pakistan) until his return in December 1947. He took many phtographs during his time there and wrote regularly to his parents and family back in the UK.
Charles Trotter was a leading professional photographer in Nairobi from 1951 - 1962. The negatives and prints here form his complete output from this period and cover British-Kenyan high society, royal and ceremonial events, industry, safari, sporting fixtures and landscapes from around East Africa. The collection also contains photographs belonging to his parents James and Margaret, who lived and worked in Africa between 1912 and 1937.
R W W Turner worked for the Attock Oil Company in northern India in the 1930s. His family lived near Rawalpindi, and at Murree. This collection includes 5 films showing domestic scenes, oil fields, tourist trips, bi-planes. The 10 photographs include staff working at the company.
The photographs in these albums were taken by an unidentified soldier serving in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Egypt with the Pioneer Corps between 1941 and 1943. There are also photographs of black soldiers serving with the African Pioneer Corps.
George Underwood worked in Nigeria in the 1930s and was based in Nigeria and Ghana (then Gold Coast) with the RAF in WW2. These photographs document aspects of Nigerian life including people, scenery and Lagos streets and landmarks.
Photographs taken and collected by the Verdins in Nigeria. Mr Verdin managed the African Oil Nuts company at Badagry, and images cover all aspects of the palm oil business. There are also many local scenes around Badagry and Lagos, landscapes, plus group and individual portraits.
Brigadier H.E. Winthrop spent his career as an officer in the Sikh Regiment of the Indian Army. The collection includes photographs and paper archives relating to his military service, most notably images and diaries from his service in Mesopotamia in WW1 and in the early 1920s, and from his posting as ADC to the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab.
Photographs of the interiors and exteriors of Woolworths stores in the Caribbean, Africa and Cyprus. These were administered by the British offices of Woolworths prior to being sold off in the 1980s.
Armine C. A. Wright worked in the Colonial Service in East Africa for 25 years, and saw active service in the region in WW2. These photographs document aspects of life in Uganda, Somalia and Eritrea in the 1930s and 1940s, and include a large number of images obtained from the former Italian administration in Somalia.