I have been looking at some of the photographic and visual information held in The National Archives while on a placement undertaken as part of my Public History MA course at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. You never quite know where or what a search will lead to: I recently discovered that searching for the phrase ‘holiday snaps’ on Discovery, The National Archives’ catalogue, led to 11 results, ten of which were linked to Ramsay MacDonald. Ramsay MacDonald (1866-1937) was the first Labour Prime Minister, serving first for a few months in 1924 and then from 1929 to 1935.
In the past, material that might today be sent to a university library, or a specialist archive, was sometimes accessioned by the Public Record Office, the forerunner of The National Archives. It would be categorised as a ‘gift or deposit’– and this perhaps explains the unlikely presence of Ramsay MacDonald ’s holiday photos in the collection.
While they are most obviously of interest to a biographer or family historian, these photos also belong to the history of amateur photography. They also illustrate the study of holiday snapshots, and travelling abroad. George Eastman introduced the first Kodak handheld film camera in 1888 with the slogan: ‘You press the button – we do the rest’. Continue reading »