Founded by Paul Messier and launched in 2015 with pivotal support from the John Pritzker Family Fund, the Lens Media Lab at Yale University’s Institute for the Preservation Cultural Heritage is a leader in developing innovative tools, methods, and web-based applications for understanding the history of black- and-white photography. At the core of the lab’s activities is its unparalleled reference collection of 7,500 photographic papers produced between 1890 and 2010. This collection—the largest of its kind in the world—serves as a baseline for materials-focused research that, by revealing patterns in and across photography collections, informs their care, scholarly and scientific inquiry, provenance research, and authentication. As the materials and methods of paper-based photography fade from manufacture and use, Yale’s Lens Media Lab is emerging as a global authority on the study of photographic printing in the 19th and 20th centuries.
We envision a new paradigm for understanding photography that incorporates materiality and scale. Our long-term objectives include:
Preserving the language of analog photography
Developing new modes of collecting that allow scholars, students, members of the general public access to photography at scales presently impossible
Enabling cross-collection studies of print collections that surface patterns impactful to the history of photography
Building partnerships that bridge the humanist / science barriers
Creating a network, within and outside Yale, that believes in the mission of the lab and is invested in its future and success
Taking a leadership role in a new photography initiative at Yale inclusive of the collections, students, faculty, and the New Haven community