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University to showcase rare photos of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria with her pony, Fyvie, and John Brown. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020

An exhibition of rarely seen photographs of Queen Victoria and the royal family at Balmoral will go on show at the University of Aberdeen from Sunday (March 8).

Lent by Her Majesty the Queen from the Royal Collection, the exhibition will comprise 50 items including photographs, stereoscopic images and albums and will explore Queen Victoria's time in Scotland, including the building of Balmoral, royal engagements and royal portraits.

It will also contain University of Aberdeen collection items relating to Scotland’s great Victorian photographer George Washington Wilson, and Victorian photography more generally.

A reception will be held this Friday, with invited guests from the Royal Collection Trust, alumni and donors, as well as members of the Strachan family. In 1953, AJB (Archie) Strachan donated 40,000 George Washington Wilson glass plates and negatives to the University.

George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) was born in the North East of Scotland and went to Edinburgh and then London in the 1840s to train as a portrait miniaturist.

He became established in Aberdeen in the 1850s as an artist and photographer, and quickly made a name for himself among the middle classes and landed gentry. His patronage by the royal family during their visits to the Balmoral Estates began in 1854, when he was invited to photograph the construction of Balmoral Castle. A year later, in 1855, he was commissioned to take portraits of the royal family within the grounds of Balmoral. He continued to photograph members of the royal family throughout his career and was appointed ‘Photographer to Her Majesty in Scotland’ in 1873.

The University’s George Washington Wilson & Co photographic collection consists of over 37,000 glass plate negatives - the world’s largest collection of his work. In 2011, the University launched a new online system of high-resolution digital versions of images taken between 1853 and 1908 by the firm.

Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collections at the University, said: “The University has a substantial collection of George Washington Wilson photos and negatives in its Special Collections, so it’s wonderful to be able to welcome this new exhibition.

“These photos were taken by royal appointment, focusing particularly on the royal family at Balmoral and is a chance to see some rarely seen images from the family photograph album.”

The display will be held in the University’s Sir Duncan Rice Library Gallery until July 5, when the Royal Collection items will move on to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh from July 17 to October 4, 2020.

Author: Robert Turbyne


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