I visited the Tyne and Wear Archives this April to photograph mammal specimens for an upcoming exhibition. A large portion of the Archives are kept in the basement of the Discovery Museum. Dan Gordon, Keeper of Biology at the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, led me down a set of stairs and through many corridors to a climate controlled room. After setting up lights and taking pictures of three or four mammals, I walked around. There were grey shelves set into rolling tracks that could be pushed together to save space, or rolled apart to access specimens. I opened a drawer in one of the shelves, and found it filled with bagged falcons, light as air. There were Victorian era bird displays, extinct species, and animals with unnaturally bemused expressions. It was fascinating to be in a room with so many species that would never exist together; a sort of perverse Noah’s Ark where the animals are already dead.
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“The Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection features color photographic surveys of the vast Russian Empire made between ca. 1905 and 1915. Frequent subjects among the 2,607 distinct images include people, religious architecture, historic sites, industry and agriculture, public works construction, scenes along water and railway transportation routes, and views of villages and cities. An active photographer and scientist, Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook most of his ambitious color documentary project from 1909 to 1915.”