Retronaut: The Photographic Time Machine

An exhibition set up as part of a project to increase audience engagement with historic photographic collections held in Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn, will close its doors on Sunday 22nd February having touched millions around the world.

A number of funny-faced Victorian portraits which were featured in the exhibition, captured the imaginations of people in 30 different countries as the images were viewed on websites across the globe and shared though social media.

“Research just a few weeks after the launch of the exhibition showed that close to 3.4 million internet users had received a message, viewed a news item or seen an image connected with the “Victorian selfies” as they became known,” explained Woodhorn Director Keith Merrin.

“A stunning 47,624 people then went on to engage with the images by commenting on them, sharing them with friends and liking them etc. on social media. And we know the images are still being talked about on the World Wide Web which is fantastic. ”

One of the main purposes of the project, made possible with funding from The Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund and run by the Museums Association, was to make collections available to new audiences and find new ways to do it. The Retronaut, otherwise known as Chris Wild, was engaged as a guest curator last year and the project has seen not just the physical exhibition at Woodhorn, but the development of a Flickr stream for Museums & Archives Northumberland (Woodhorn and the Archive’s parent trust), increased activity on social media and use of Northumberland Archive Images through Retronaut’s website and social media channels.

“The exhibition at Woodhorn has also been a great hit with visitors,” explained Keith. “People have really enjoyed seeing these photographic gems: images that seem not to belong to the time when they were created.

“We hope that people will take advantage of next week’s holiday period to visit Woodhorn and see these thought-provoking photographs in large format. Perhaps they’ll even take home a souvenir bearing the face of one of our much-loved Victorians.”

Some of the images from this exhibition plus others from Northumberland Archives can be seen online at Museum & Archives Northumberland’s Flickr site.

Retronaut: The Photographic Time Machine ends on Sunday 22 February.