Cromer Museum secures collection of rare photographs for North Norfolk

  • 7 October 2008

The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity has helped the Cromer Museum purchase a nationally important collection of photographs by pioneering North Norfolk photographer Olive Edis. The Art Fund provided a grant of £7,500 towards the £30,000 needed to acquire the collection of photographic prints, autochromes and negatives.

The photographs were offered to the museum by a private owner, the late Cyril Nunn, who himself was a photographer in Sheringham and worked very closely with Olive Edis over the years.

The photographs, which are due to be displayed from Easter 2009, were taken by Edis between 1905 and 1955. They include stunning sepia images of Cromer and Sheringham fishermen and a rare series of autochromes, the first true colour photographs. Edis was famous in society for her portraiture and the collection also contains photographs of famous people including King George VI, David Lloyd George, Thomas Hardy and Cromer lifeboat hero Henry Blogg.

Edis (1876-1955) took up photography in 1900 when she was given her first camera by her sister. She opened her studio in Church Street Sheringham in 1905 and by 1910 her photographs were appearing in national newspapers. She was one of the first women to use the autochrome process, which was invented in France in 1907, and even patented her own autochrome viewer known as a diascope. In 1919 she was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum as the only official woman photographer to record the war work of the women’s services. Examples of her work are held by the Imperial War Museum, the National Media Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Museum has been awarded £12,000 from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA)/Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A) Purchase Grant Fund, £7,500 from The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity, and £2,500 from the Friends of Cromer Museum to purchase the photographs. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) provided a grant of £20,900 to complete the purchase and enable the museum to put the photographs on display.

Jamie Everitt, Area Museums Officer for North Norfolk, said: “The grants are fantastic news. It means the collection is preserved for North Norfolk rather than being split up and sold to collectors. This is one of the most important acquisitions Cromer Museum has ever made and we couldn’t have done it without the support from the funders and the Friends of Cromer Museum, for which we are extremely grateful. We will now be working hard over the winter to redevelop a gallery in the Museum to display the photographs.”

Peter Stibbons, Chair of the Friends of Cromer Museum, said, “We are delighted that the Friends were able to kick-start this appeal with a donation of £2,500, showing local commitment to the purchase which is always necessary when applying for national grants. It is a fitting tribute to the work that past Chair Jim Smith and the committee undertook over the last few years to build up a reserve of funds for occasions such as this.”

John Gretton, Cabinet Member for Cultural Services at Norfolk County Council which manages the Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service with a partnership of district councils, said: “I have always been interested in pioneering photography as a mirror to the past and the best way of meeting our ancestors as they really were. Formal portraits, workplace images, and busy street scenes all have their own visual fascination and historic value. So, I am delighted that the energy of Cromer Museum’s officers has secured external funding to retain this vital archive in the town."

For more information about Cromer Museum and other museums in Norfolk, visit


Notes for Editors

The Art Fund
The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

A high resolution image of Olive Edis, (self-portrait, autochrome) can be supplied if required. For further information please contact: Jamie Everitt, Area Museums Officer (North Norfolk) at Cromer Museum, 01263 517964, mobile 07778 506885. Email:

Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service
The Norfolk Museums are managed by Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service which is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk's district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants.

Heritage Lottery Fund
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage. From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation’s heritage for everyone to enjoy. Since 1994 it has supported more than 26,000 projects, allocating over £4 billion across the UK.

MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund
The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund is a government fund, established at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 1881 as part of its nationwide network.
The annual grants budget, currently £1,000,000, is provided by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).
The Fund supports the acquisition of objects relating to the arts, literature and history by regional museums, record offices and specialist libraries in England and Wales.
Each year it considers some 300 applications and in 2007-08 awarded grants to 100 organisations, enabling acquisitions of over £4 million to go ahead.
Visit the website at

Friends of Cromer Museum
The Friends of Cromer Museum organise a range of events in order to support the Museum and its work.

Contact Peter Stibbons, Chair. 01263 510969. Email:

For political comment
Joint Museums Committee
Cllr John Gretton (Cons), Chairman, (01362) 692707
Cllr Mike Taylor (Lab), (01493) 308497
Cllr Fran Pitt-Pladdy (Lib Dem), (01379) 853276
Chris Hull, (Green), (01603) 664928

For further information please contact:
Susie Lockwood, Media Officer
Tel: 01603 222495