Museum of London

Bridging the past: hybrid images of London

The Museum of London released 16 gorgeous and ghostly images of London today merged with London of yesterday to mark the launch of its revamped app. To celebrate the Bridge exhibition, which runs until 2 November 2014, the museum has continued this historically creative adventure by releasing 16 images of London's bridges, spanning from present to past. Tower Bridge c. 1903–10, by Christina Broom

The original images, which are all part of the museum's photography collection, were shot in the 19th and 20th centuries. Their photographers include: Henry Grant, Henry Turner, Sandra Flett, Christina Broom, Roger Mayne, and George Davison Reid. They depict Tower Bridge c. 1903-10; the demolition of Old Waterloo Bridge c. 1934; Albert Bridge c. late 19th century; London Bridge c.1937; and the view of London’s skyline from Tower Bridge c.1930, among others.

Richmond Bridge late 19th century, photographer unknown

Francis Marshall, curator of the Bridge exhibition says: 'Contrasting historic shots with those of today allows us to see how the city has changed over time. Or in some cases, how it has remained the same.'

A Windy Evening on London Bridge c. 1937, by Henry Turner

You can see all of the images at the Bridge exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. It's free!

Charing Cross Railway Bridge, late 19th century, unknown photographer

For one month only: an 1845 Fox Talbot salt print on display at the Museum of London Docklands

Any exhibition opening is exciting for the curation team behind it, but the Museum of London is particularly excited about its forthcoming exhibition Bridge, which opens at the Docklands branch of the organisation on 27 June. Bridge will feature the oldest photograph in the museum's collection, William Henry Fox Talbot's Old Hungerford Bridge, a salt print made in 1845. The print has never been exhibited by the museum until now, owing to its fragile condition and its special place in photographic history.

While Fox Talbot worked on developing the photographic process throughout the 1830s, it wasn't until 1845 that he made his major breakthrough that allowed photographs to be successfully fixed in a way that wasn't so hit-and-miss. This was a precursor to the development process that was used until the advent of digital photography. And Old Hungerford Bridge would have been one of the first negative-to-positive images fixed in this way.

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877) Hungerford Bridge Salt print, made around 1845

The print itself shows Isambard Kingdom Brunel's original Hungerford Bridge in 1845, the year it opened. (It would be demolished 15 years later to make way for a railway bridge.) 'By contrasting the old barges in the foreground with the Brunel's new iron bridge, Fox Talbot highlights the technological advances of the 19th century,' says Francis Marshall, Bridge's curator. Let alone his own technological advances in the photography world.

Why the difficulty in exhibiting the print? It's extremely fragile and faded due to its age. In order to minimise the risks to the picture, it will be displayed in strictly controlled lighting conditions; in order to see it, visitors will be invited to press a button to illuminate it, reducing its exposure to nnecessary light. It's also only going to be on display for the first month of the exhibition.

As for the rest of the exhibition, it uses a mixture of contemporary and historical artworks, photography, and film to chart the visual history of London. From Hungerford to Blackfriars, Westminster, Millennium, and Thomas Heatherwick’s Garden Bridge design, Bridge looks at how London’s bridges allow people to move around and experience the city.

The exhibition runs from 27 June to 2 November 2014, at the Museum of London Docklands. But the Fox Talbot print will only be on display for the first month. It's free to enter. The entire museum is well worth a trip, and I recommend indulging in a mojito in Rum & Sugar when you've finished.

Juxtaposition: London past and present in pictures

I'm a big fan of the Museum of London. It panders to my penchant for Romans, hosts very interesting exhibitions, and has a great app to guide you around the city itself: Streetmuseum. To mark the launch of version 2.0 of Streetmuseum, the museum has released 16 gorgeous, ghostly images of the city, merging past with present. You can look over the Thames from Tower Bridge, from the 1920s on the left and the 2010s on the right; or stand on the corner of Long Acre and Neal Street (just about where Marks and Sparks is now), looking towards Covent Garden Tube station, 2010 on the left, 1930 on the right. It's wonderful to see how much London has, and hasn't changed. Palace Theatre, 1958, Bob Collins. A night shot outside the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, before an evening's performance.

The new version of the app has had 100s more city locations added to it, meaning that you can select a destination from a London map or let yourself be geo-tagged to your present location. Then a historical image of London will appear on your screen and you can expand it to learn about where you are. Most of these are in central London, but some are in its outer reaches, too.

Charing Cross Road, c.1935, Wolfgang Suschitzky An evening street scene outside Foyles book shop on Charing Cross Road, c.1935.

The photos range in date from 1868 to 2003 and were taken by photographers including Henry Grant, Wolfgang Suschitsky, Roger Mayne, and George Davison Reid.

Cheapside, 1893, Paul Martin. A street seller of sherbert and water is photographed  on Cheapside completely unawares of the camera.  Paul Martin was the first photographer to roam around the streets of London with a disguised camera taking  candid pictures such as this solely for the purpose of showing 'life as it is'.

The app is free to download to your iPhone and is available now.

Victoria Station, 1950, Henry Grant.

Tower Bridge, c. 1930, George Davison Reid