Kodak Snapshots: Celebrating 120 Years of Manufacturing in Australia

Kodak-Brownie-Starlet-Outfit-Kodak-Heritage-CollectionA digital display that shares the history of Kodak and its predecessors Baker & Rouse with over 40,000 items preserved and digitise, Museums Victoria launches Kodak Snapshots: Celebrating 120 years in Australia.

For 120 years between 1884 and 2004, Kodak Australasia and its local predecessors manufactured and marketed photographic products to the Australasian region.

Thomas Baker, an English scientist, manufacturer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, started a photographic business selling Baker’s Gelatine Plates in Abbotsford, Victoria. Baker teamed up with John Joseph (JJ) Rouse in 1887 to form Baker & Rouse, before amalgamating with Eastman Kodak in 1908 to form Kodak Australasia.

In November 2004, Kodak Australasia’s Coburg factory ceased operations and closed its doors for the last time. Driven in part by the rise of digital photography, the closure marked the end of 120 years of local innovation in photographic manufacturing in Melbourne, Victoria.

This shift in the industry was not unique to Australia, other Kodak factories around the world also suffered the same fate around this time, and over time the company has reshaped itself, as we hope the workers have too.

In 2005, following the factory closure and while the site was still being dismantled, many thousands of objects, photographs and documents from the Coburg factory started arriving by the truckload at Museums Victoria’s storage facility, marking the beginning of the museum’s Kodak Heritage Collection.

The Kodak Heritage Collection is nationally significant, consisting of over 40,000 items, including over 3,000 objects, almost 6,500 documents and 800 films, about 30,000 images and approximately 50 oral history interviews that the museum conducted with former Kodak staff talking about their working lives between the 1930s and 2004.

This material records the history of Kodak’s manufacturing, marketing, retail and working life activities around Australia. It also connects many elements of Australia’s history beyond photography.

“This material holds valuable information about more general subjects not necessarily related to photography directly, including the history of Melbourne, the Yarra River including when it flooded, migration, gender relations, wartime experiences, design, building construction, suburbia, recreation and so much more,” said Museums Victoria’s Senior Curator of Images & Image Making, Fiona Kinsey.

Kodak Snapshots also reveals the behind-the-scenes work to bring the collection from Kodak’s Coburg factory to the museum and to preserve, digitise and document it – all with the help of the Kodak community.

For more information about Kodak Snapshots: Celebrating 120 Years of Manufacturing in Australia, visit: www.museumsvictoria.com.au for details.

Image: Kodak Brownie Starlet Outfit – courtesy of Kodak Heritage Collection / Museums Victoria