The starting point for a museum of photography in Sweden was the Swedish government’s purchase of “The Helmut Gernsheim Duplicate Collection” in 1964. The following year, Helmer Bäckström’s historic photography collection was added. Both acquisitions are immeasurably fascinating, and were made possible thanks to the strong pressure groups formed in the late 1940s which later became the Friends of the Museum of Photography.
A few years later, in 1971, Fotografiska Museet was founded as a separate department within Moderna Museet. For the first time, it became possible to run a permanent exhibition programme for photography. Fotografiska Museet had its galleries in the western wing of the old museum building, and operated as an independent department until 1998. When Moderna Museet was reorganised, the photography collection was integrated with the museum’s other collections and the name “Fotografiska Museet” was dropped.
The collection contains some 100,000 photographs from the 1840s to today, including pictures produced with older methods – Daguerreotypes, calotypes and albumin silver prints. The chief part of the collection, however, consists of gelatine silver prints by Swedish and foreign photographers. Since the early 1990s, photography has been used increasingly by visual artists, and this has expanded the museum’s collection of colour photography and digital images considerably.
The collection consists mainly of positive images (prints) produced, or approved, by the photographers themselves. Moreover, a few photographers have bequeathed their entire oeuvre, including negatives, to the collection, and some organisations have donated their photographic archives containing several thousand images. The collection of photography is constantly being organised and catalogued, and new acquisitions are made through purchases and donations.