A digital photo archive shows everyday life in 20th-century Romania

A curatorial collective has started to digitise one of Romania’s few historical photographic archives.

The collection belongs to Mihai Oroveanu (1946-2013), an art historian and photographer who worked as the director of Romania’s National Museum of Contemporary Art between 2001-2013.

The collection’s origins vary from micro-archives intended for destruction, which Oroveanu saved, to photographs and negatives he bought in antique shops and second-hand markets. Unfortunately, the names of many of the images’ authors remain unknown, but the team behind this project, Salonul de proiecte, say they will update their website as more information comes to light.

The tens of thousands of photographs capture historical moments such as mass demonstrations in the 30s, Stalinist propaganda of the 1940s and 50s, and the destruction caused by the major 1977 earthquake in Bucharest. But they also give glimpses into the quotidian: workers toiling in factories, farmers tending their crops, as well as ordinary people resting, hiking, and going on about their daily lives. The archive boasts architectural photography too, which ranges from the ornate and eclectic turn-of-century buildings in Bucharest to daring socialist modernist structures, such as the State Circus or the Romanian Academy Library, both located in the capital city.

Led by Salonul de proiecte, the project will continue until the end of next year with three exhibitions in addition to the digital archive. The first of these shows opened in Bucharest last week, and focuses on the capital city’s architecture and public space. The next two exhibits will centre on gender, and anonymous and vernacular photography. Each show will also include artworks inspired by the photo archive made by contemporary artists.

Check out the archive here.

Women on the grass 1920-30
Mountain hikers 1945-55
Strollers in central Bucharest 1950-60
Workers 1948-58
Stalinist Foreign Minister Ana Pauker, 1944-8
Chemists in 1950-60
Village school girls 1980-90
Piața Unirii in Bucharest 1950-60
Romanian Academy Library, 1950-70
A family of farmers in Certeze having a picnic
A military parade on Calea Victoriei in Bucharest 1925-35
Farmers picking hemp 1930-40
The Romanian Academy Library, 1938-50
Men in the snow, 1930-50
Women preparing the pearl barley for Romanian dish coliva, 1920-40
The State Circus in Bucharest, 1961-70
Worker in milk factory, 1920-40
The destructions caused by the 1977 earthquake in Bucharest

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