Calotype Project

York’s First Photographs – Victorian Visionaries

As part of our celebration of the YPS bicentennial in 2022, we formed a group working with York Museums Trust (YMT) and York Explore (YE – formerly York Central Library) to run a project in Museum Gardens, York, throughout September and October 2019. The core project was an exhibition of a selection of photographs taken  at a conference which took place in York 175 years ago, when photography was in its infancy.

These very early photographs were called calotypes.  They were taken by the important Scottish photographers D O Hill and R Adamson, and we displayed large weather-proof copies of some of them in interesting places in and around Museum Gardens. We  included some nationally important scientists, a number of people who were important to York and the YPS, and some colourful characters – an ex whaling captain, and a mounted coastguard – think Cornish smugglers…

To view or download a pdf showing the panels in place in the gardens, click on this link:- Calotypes and locations

Supporting Events

We also wanted to provoke interest and discussion about the many ways in which photography has been used over time, and is increasing in importance in all our lives. To do this, YPS and our partners YMT and YE put on a programme of talks and activities.

To learn more about the conference, the photographers and their subjects

Clicking on the link The 1844 British Association conference and the first photographs taken in York,  will take you to an article about the conference,  photographers D O Hill and R Adamson, and how these photographs came to be taken. It contains links to pdfs on the calotypes taken at the conference and the biographies of the subjects.

To learn more about calotypes, and the science and history of photography click on The calotype and its place in the development of photography

We would like to acknowledge the support of


Image credits

Portraits in the banner above are all calotypes taken by David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) & Robert Adamson (1821-1848) and licensed from the National Galleries of Scotland. From L to R :- 

Title:-‘Called Sir John Frederick William Herschel, 1792 – 1871. Astronomer’

Title:-‘Rev. Dr William Scoresby, 1789 – 1857. Whaler, Scientist and Arctic explorer [b]’

Title:- ‘Charles William Peach, 1800 – 1886. Coastguard; naturalist and geologist’

Title:-‘Sir Henry Thomas De La Beche, 1796 – 1855’

The images behind the banner portraits are:-

The New Museum with Part of the Ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, York, N. Whittock, 1829.  YPS & St. Mary’s Abbey Gateway, Thomas Rowlandson, 1801. Image YMT