Kodak Heritage Collection

17 February, 2010

Kodak Poster from Collections Online
Poster - 'Better Snapshots are Easier Now with New Body-Release Kodaks', 1930s. Taken from MV's Collections Online, Reg. No: HT 19996.
Image: Kodak Australasia
Source: Museum Victoria

CEO of Kodak Australasia, Steve Venn, and Chairman and CEO of Eastman Kodak Company, Antonio Perez, have presented a cheque for $10,000 to support the Kodak Heritage Collection at Museum Victoria. The money will be used in the coming months to register the collection in the museum’s database and increase the number of records published online.

Following closure of Kodak’s Coburg plant in 2004, 15,000 photographs, objects, moving images and documents the largest and most significant collection relating to the Australian photographic industry were acquired by the museum. The plant closed after rapid growth of digital photography and the corresponding decline in demand for the film cameras and other locally-manufactured products.

The story of Kodak in Australia dates back to 1884 with the establishment of Thomas Baker’s Austral Plate Company in Abbotsford. Later joining forces with John Rouse to form Baker and Rouse Pty Ltd, this successful enterprise became Australia’s biggest provider of photographic supplies. In 1908 Baker and Rouse merged with Kodak Limited to become what is known today as Kodak Australasia, with both Baker and Rouse remaining as managing directors for many years.

The Kodak Heritage Collection includes products, brochures and packaging in the company’s trademark red and yellow colours, but also company archives, safety equipment and raw materials. Among the 10,000 images in the collection are pictures of the original Abbotsford factory, its replacement plant in Coburg and all aspects of working life. “It’s Kodak’s corporate history, but it’s also a part of the history of Melbourne,” said curator Fiona Kinsey. Fiona described the broader role of Kodak in local communities, particularly around the two sites where many employees lived. “There are photographs of people at work and play, floods at Abbotsford, and the market gardens that supported employees during wartime.” It was not uncommon for staff to remain at the company for their whole career, often working side-by-side with their family members.

The breadth of the collection is largely thanks to Kate Metcalf, Kodak Australasia’s former Senior Legal Counsel. As a trained archaeologist, her interest in artefacts prompted her to gather material as the plant closed down. Assisted by former Kodak employees, including a number of managing directors, the museum is working to document, understand and interpret the collection. Fiona is also working with Kodak heritage collections in the USA, UK and Canada, reflecting the important role of Kodak Australasia in this global company.

At the presentation ceremony, Museum Victoria CEO, Dr Patrick Greene, noted that Kodak has given millions of people the tools to create their own historical documents, showing a photo he had taken at the age of eleven on a Kodak Box Brownie. Patrick also compared Kodak’s adaptation to an increasingly digital world to the museum’s efforts to place collections online. There are about 50 Kodak Heritage Collection records online to date, and this generous sponsorship will boost this number. Said Fiona, “it’s going to grow in the next few months, so come back and visit.”

Those with a connection to Kodak can contact Fiona Kinsey through Discovery Centre to share a story or become a volunteer on the project.

Comments (6)

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Doris Tomes 6 March, 2010 12:55
I have a Kodaslide Projector Model 1 manufactured In United States of America. It is in Working order. Is it of any value??????????
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Discovery Centre 10 March, 2010 11:43

Sounds like a lovely item, Doris, but unfortunately we cannot offer valuations. More info here.

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Richard Batterley 12 January, 2011 10:52
I realise you don;t offer valuations but can you help me identify an old Eastman Kodak camera I have in my collection? It maybe be I am just looking in the wrong place, but I have identified all the other Kodaks I have but can't find this one anywhere. I have taken some shots of it and can send them to you if that works for you. Many thanks Richard
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Discovery Centre 12 January, 2011 14:37
Hi Richard, Discovery Centre offer a free identification service. You can send details about the camera and images through our Ask The Experts page. Please have a read of our donation guidelines before submitting the enquiry.
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Luke Thomson 14 February, 2011 19:50
I am very intrested in Kodak in particular the photos of the old Coburg plant. Do you possibly have any more recent photos of the plant? Also at which of the Museums is the Kodak Heritage Collection located at? Thank you.
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Stephen Fleay 19 May, 2011 20:28
I am hoping there will information available as to the processing activities of Kodachrome both Cine and slide film during world war two at Abbortsford. I have been in contact with one branch of Kodak Australia and it has already been suggested to contact the Museum. I have been involved with the restoration of the 16 mm kodachrome sound film "Wildlife in Bushland" about the Healesville Sanctuary in 1942. If anyone can provide information about Kodak's involvement in the processing of this film it would be well appreciated. Also if Kodak processed colour movie and still films for the US forces who were in and near Australia in WW2..
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