Work has begun on cataloguing the Edith Collier Trust (ECT) Archive held in the permanent care of the Sarjeant Gallery.
These archives comprise: historical photographs of Whanganui's Edith Collier, correspondence with her family and fellow ex-patriot artist Frances Hodgkins while Edith was working and studying in the UK, assessments from Edith's tutors at St John's Wood Art School in London, as well as Edith's notebooks and personal ephemera including her London underground maps and wartime ration cards.
We were delighted to have a descendant of Edith Collier make a start on cataloguing the archive earlier this year.
Rose Collier is Edith's great-great-niece and worked at the gallery as a volunteer for two weeks, during which time Rose recorded the details for 120 items in the archive. As part of this project gallery photographer Michael McKeagg has completed photography of the entire archive, including page by page images of Edith's personal notebooks.
To date 69 of these records are available to view at our website's online collection portal Explore the Collection, with more records being added each week.
In the course of cataloguing Edith's archive we have been in discussions with Lissa Mitchell, Te Papa's curator of historical documentary photography, who has been researching early women photographers of this period.
• Sarjeant Happenings: Post a message to the future at the Sarjeant Gallery
• Sarjeant Happenings: Intern unravels Edith Collier mysteries
• Sarjeant Happenings: Dr Kathryn Wightman's Digital Parent work launches pattillo project
• Sarjeant happenings: 100th anniversary will be marked by public ceremony
So far we have identified four images from within the ECT archive that were probably taken by Annie Elizabeth Davis (b.1870, d.1943). We believe that Annie's sister Ethel Margaret Ellison (née Davis b.1879, d.1961) was a friend of Edith's, as seen in one of the photographs taken by Annie of 13-year-old Edith and 19-year-old Ethel with their bicycles. Also within the archive, but yet to be catalogued, are written letters between Edith and Ethel.
From Lissa Mitchell's research to date we know that Annie Davis and Emily Collis opened The Ridgway Studio (in an upstairs part of the Ridgway Building) in Whanganui in 1899.
The studio was reported as being fitted out in a modern manner for the time and they had showcases of their photographic work on display in the street front below their studio. The pair had been working at another studio run by Alfred Martin, and Davis had previously worked for Wrigglesworth and Binns (in Wellington).
Their studio was short lived and the pair sold it in 1901 shortly before Collis got married. Unfortunately Collis died shortly afterwards in 1903, possibly from complications in childbirth. Davis then shifted to Auckland and photographs by her were published in the Auckland Weekly News in 1911 and 1912. She died in Auckland in 1943.
We look forward to finding out more information about these links with an early New Zealand woman photographer as the details of this significant and personal archive are recorded.
•Lissa Mitchell is keen to hear from anyone who has information or photographs by the Ridgway Studio, Collis and Davis, and also Edith Williams (E.E. Williams). You can contact her at LissaM@tepapa.govt.nz