Work has begun on the conservation of a box of 50 glass plate photographic negatives exposed in the Aran Islands in 1890. Ciarán Walsh | has commissioned Ciaran Rooney of Filmbank Colour Management to scan the negatives and produce a set of archive quality, exhibition-ready prints.

Rooney and Walsh worked together on the Irish “Head-hunter” project (2012) and the photographic collection of the Great Blasket Centre in Dún Chaoin (2013). This project is being undertaken in partnership with TCD School of Medicine and Maynooth university. It is funded by the Irish Research Council.

The Dixon negatives in their original, slotted storage box, a first-generation print, a negative holder and a a quarter plate camera similar to the the one used by Dixon.

The photographs were taken by Andrew Francis Dixon in 1890. Dixon was a medical student who was working as an assistant to Alfred Cort Haddon, a marine biologist, during a survey coastal of fisheries in the West of Ireland. They spent a week in the islands and recorded the mode of life of the islanders and various archaeological sites. These are the earliest ethnographic photographs of the islanders and are a very important addition to the national photographic archive.

The shelf underneath the “old” Anatomy Theatre, where the negatives were discovered in 2014.

The negatives were discovered by Ciarán Walsh and Siobhán Ward in 2014, on a shelf under the decommissioned theatre in “Old” Anatomy in TCD. They became the focus of a four year research project that is funded by the Irish Research Council and involves a partnership between the school of Anthropology in Maynooth University and TCD School of Medicine.

A photograph taken in Dún Chonchubhair on Inis Meáin. The negative on the left shows the original masking carried out by R. J. Welch, a Belfast photographer who processed the negatives in 1890.

The negatives are being scanned in preparation for a publication project with Cambridge University Library.