Photographic equipment for the 19th century traveller

hands holding a glass plate negative

Glass negative of Prince Gong. © The Wellcome Library

In the mid 19th century photographic equipment was both heavy and bulky. Thomson therefore had to add both perseverance and
physical energy to his enthusiasm for exploring exotic places.

On this glass negative of Prince Gong you can see the brown coating of collodion on one side. Collodion is the chemical surface on which early photographic images were captured. The process required Thomson to carry a 'portable' yet cumbersome
photographic darkroom around China with him.

At the top of the negative is Thomson's handwritten label and a file number. It is only because Thomson was so careful in
labelling his negatives that we can identify the places and dates on them today.

three old fashioned traveller's crates

Thomson's glass negatives were stored in these crates when they were sold to Henry Wellcome. They are lined inside with steel and when full of glass negatives, the larger crates could only be lifted safely by four people.

old fashioned crate with lid open, showing steel lining

Chinese translation

A pdf of the Chinese text from the exhibition panel about Thomson's photographic equipment is also available to download:

Chinese translation|