Curator's Choice: The Kodak Museum

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The Independent Culture
'In 1921, Sir Edward Lutyens was commissioned to create a doll's-house for Queen Mary, as a showcase for the best of British arts and crafts. My curatorial choice is an item that never actually made it into the doll's-house, which is still intact at Windsor Castle. The piece is a box brownie camera, costing pounds 1, which was introduced by Kodak in 1900, about 60 years after the camera was invented by Giroux. It was originally aimed at children, because basically it was one of those cameras which was so simple nothing would go wrong.

This particular box brownie is unique because it was only one-eighth the size of the mass-produced ones being imported from America and was the very first Kodak camera to be made in this country, every part being fashioned by hand at the Kilburn repair works using jewellers' tools and a microscope. Unfortunately, as the doll's-house was meant to represent a royal household, Kodak rejected the box camera as far too humble for the surroundings of the Queen's doll's-house and the technicians eventually came up with a scale model of a folding Autographic Kodak which was far more complicated than the box brownie and, at sixteen guineas (about pounds 17), far more expensive. This was duly presented to the doll's-house in July 1924 and put on display at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley.

The Kodak Museum began life in the late 1920s, at the factory in Harrow and stayed there until 1985, when a museum was donated at Bradford. Among the other exhibits on display is a photo of the technicians from 1924, taken with the miniature box brownie.'

Colin Harding is curator of the Kodak Museum at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Tue-Sun 10.30-6.00pm, Bradford (0274 727488)