Calotype Project

Creative Calotypes – 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 displays a selection of photographs taken  at a conference which took place in York 175 years ago, when photography was in its infancy.

The Calotype Trail

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

To download a map which you can print out and carry round with you, click here:Calotype Trail

Events for Adults

In addition to hosting the display in the gardens, YMT have put on a display (which you can see for free!) in the foyer of the Yorkshire Museum, and is arranging some curators’ talks. YPS has arranged some further activities, including a lecture by Anne Lyden, the Chief Curator of Photography at the National Galleries of Scotland, where these wonderful photos are kept, and a Cafe Sci presentation by Dr Colleen Morgan, from the University of York. Our partners at York Explore will be devoting some of their popular ‘Mint Yard Lectures’ to this theme, and will also put on a workshop ‘Caring for your old Photographs’. For more information on these events, please download a leaflet by clicking here:-York’s First Photographs

Events for Children

We hope that children will enjoy following the trail in the gardens. Additionally, York Explore have an ‘interactive digital table’, which we will use to show photographs of modern scientists at work. This will be a fun way to demonstrate how much has changed in the last 175 years, and how science might now provide an exciting career for people of all types. YE will also put on a ‘Fun Palaces’ workshop related to the calotypes.

To learn more about the photographers and their subjects

Clicking on the first item in the ‘red list’ on the left of the page, ‘1844 – How it all Happened’,  will take you to a page of information about the photographers D O Hill and R Adamson, and how these photographs came to be taken. Clicking on the remaining items in the list will give you short biographical items on the sitters.

To learn more about calotypes, and the science and history of photography

Click here:- The calotype and its place in the development of photography.

We would like to acknowledge the support of


Margaret Leonard 20/8/2019

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