One of the most important things we do as photographers is to preserve our lives and environments the for future generations to see. Whether it’s of personal – baby pictures of your grandpa – or historical significance, looking through old photographs that were taken before you were even born is always fascinating.

Last week, the internet gained a new resource for perusing the past as pertaining to Europe in Europeana Collections‘ new Europeana Photography gallery containing 2.2 million photos including some from well-known photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron, Eadweard Muybridge, Man Ray, and Louis Daguerre.

Portret van de astronoom Sir John Herschel and J.F.W. Herschel | Cameron, Julia Margaret

[REWIND:] QUEST FOR IDENTITY | A PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE OF THE BOSNIAN WAR

In addition to a search engine that lets you filter with multiple keywords to find specific content, the site features digital exhibitions where visitors can explore a chosen theme through historic photographs. Currently on the site is the exhibition “Industrial Photography In The Machine Age” with sections like “Beauty In Banality” and “Geometry And Line.” While viewing, photographic insights can be gleaned in the writings of the site’s publishers, for example:

“Repetition, symmetry, and geometry are excellent visual guides. As inconspicuous as they might seem, patterns govern this image and lend rhythm to the viewing experience. As a result, this picture intrigues while it pleases; it stirs as well as appeases the eye.”

Tafel #47 aus dem Album “The Attitudes of Animals in Motion” | Eadweard Muybridge

The photographs, many of which are in the public domain, have been curated by PHOTOCONSORTIUM – International Consortium for Photographic Heritage, a not-for-profit association dedicated to preserving and promoting historic photos.

Whether you’re in the mood to learn about European history through photos or study old portrait photography for inspiration and insight with comparison to modern day, the site is definitely worth a look.