Classroom photographic journeys: the Alfred Hugh Fisher Collection

14 October 2020 – 13 January 2023

Opening reception Friday 14 October, 17:00 – 19:00

Exhibition open weekdays from 09:00 – 19:00 in term time
Exhibition open weekdays from 09:00 – 17:00 out of term time
The exhibition extends over all four floors of the Alison Richard Building

Works by Alfred Hugh Fisher (1867-1945).

Curated by Sabrina Meneghini, Curator and Archival Assistant at the Royal Commonwealth Society Department of Cambridge University Library.

The exhibition presents reproductions of photographs and paintings by British artist Alfred Hugh Fisher (1867-1945).

The Fisher Collection, held in the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Library at Cambridge University Library (CUL), is the subject of Sabrina Meneghini’s research and was the focus of her dissertation: ‘Classroom Photographic Journeys; Alfred Hugh Fisher and the British Empire’s Development of Colonial-era Visual Education’.

In 1907 the Colonial Office Visual Instruction Committee (COVIC) hired Fisher, a writer and newspaper illustrator, to document photographically the people and landscapes of the British empire in order to facilitate school education. Fisher toured the empire for three years, taking photographs and making paintings from which COVIC produced sets of lantern slides and textbooks. These were to be presented as a series of geography lessons to schoolchildren.

His journey started in South Asia where he visited Ceylon, India, and Burma; followed by Aden, Somaliland, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Malay Peninsula, the British possessions in the Mediterranean, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji.

Furthermore, COVIC purchased images from places he was not able to visit such as the West Indies and South Africa.

The Fisher Collection has never been exhibited before. Its display in the Alison Richard Building (ARB) provides a unique opportunity to see Fisher and COVIC’s visual education project.

Visit the Alfred Hugh Fisher photographic collection online.

Teaching Geography through illustrated lectures and textbooks

A classroom full of children in India.