Established in 2008 through a generous commitment from Edward Lenkin, C’71, PAR’12 and his family, the Lenkin Family Acquisition Fund enabled Penn Libraries to acquire an unparalleled private collection of photographs of the Holy Land. The Lenkin Family Collection of Photography is comprised of 3,763 original photographs, primarily of Jerusalem and Palestine, taken between 1850 and 1947.
The photographs were collected over the course of 35 years by Paola and Bertrand Lazard. What began as a way for Paola to maintain a connection with her life in Israel after moving to France, it developed into the finest private collection of its kind. Among the major photographers represented in the collection are Bedford, Bergheim, Bonfils, Bridges, Cotton, De Clercq, Diness, Du Camp, Dumas, Frith, Good, Graham, Hammerschmidt, Isaacs, Kluger, Leeuw, McDonald, Paier, Robertson & Beato, Salzmann, and Von Ostheim. With photos dating from 1850, the collection features a variety of early photographic processes and surfaces, including calotypes and albumen and collodion prints. The photos are original witnesses to the architecture, topography, and archeological exploration of the Holy Land from the earliest days of photography into the 1930s. The collection also includes 813 additional photo-reproductions, a reference library of nearly 100 secondary sources, and an extensive archive of notes and documents. Among the photographs are dozens of images of the Wailing Wall and stunning panoramas of Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus.
The Lenkin Family Collection is a unique resource with the potential for doctoral and post-doctoral research as well as undergraduate education, specifically in the area of Middle East and Holy Land studies and the history of photography. In addition to the collection’s value for teaching and research purposes, Penn faculty have expressed interest in using specific images to illustrate articles and books they are writing, and have made requests for exhibits to support upcoming conferences and symposia. There are significant related collections in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and The Penn Libraries plans to develop a shared database of images and digital tools to facilitate scholarly inquiry and digitally unite these resources.
When Edward Lenkin first saw a sample of the Holy Land photographs collected by Bertrand and Paola Lazard, he was drawn to the images taken by photographers working in the earliest days of their medium. Lenkin is a collector with an avid interest in photography. An engaged alumnus and Penn parent, Lenkin has long supported undergraduate financial aid and endowed a fund for teaching and research in the History of Art department. Through his gift to the Libraries, Lenkin has ensured that the Lazard’s collection of photographs will be accessible to Penn scholars and, through digitization, to the world at large.