The Photo Archive

The Photo Archive of the Municipality of Genoa is the largest public collection of photographs of Liguria.
It contains over two hundred thousand photographs documenting many aspects of the artistic, economic, social life of Genoa and Liguria in the second half of the 19th century until World War II: the artistic heritage of the region and the great urban, architectural and landscape changes, but also the ancient crafts, the world of education and work, the places of social gathering, and so on.
The archive was officially founded in 1910 as the Municipal Photographic Cabinet: the Council gave it the task of documenting the ongoing works and reproducing the historical artworks and documents. After a slowdown in economic activities due to World War I, the scope of the Cabinet expanded in the 1920s, and some of the favourite subjects of the Town Hall photographers include – in the phrasing used at the time – “the main events of the city, the ceremonies and events taking place in Genoa”: it is a colourful collection of information, a rich and still largely unexplored iconographic source for the reconstruction of the history of Genoa during the fascist regime. The collections have since been enriched through the acquisition of precious and fragile “incunabula” of the 19th century, through previous campaigns commissioned by the Municipality, donations or purchases. The most important acquisition was no doubt that of the German photographer Alfred Noack, now unanimously considered one of the greatest photographers of the 19th century.
In 1935, the Cabinet was first forced to reduce and eventually stop its activities. It was opened again in the years of the post-war reconstruction under the name Photographic Archive of Fine Arts, hence clearly characterised as support for the artistic and historical studies in the local area. Since then – with the significant exception of the acquisition of the photographic archive of Erminio Cresta in 1978 –, the work of the Archive has been connected to the Civic Museum.