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.