Katharine Reynolds and the Ri

Further information about the photgraphic collection of Katharine Reynolds from the 1890s.

About Katharine Reynolds

Very little is known about Katharine Reynolds (c.1855-1932) and her work. She was the sister of the company secretary to the engineering business formed to market James Dewar's hydrogen jet. This relationship was clearly sufficient to give her entrée to the Royal Institution to take a very large number of photographs inside the building in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Reynolds was even able to photograph the basement rooms. She produced remarkably detailed photos despite the lack of light by using very long exposures. The first example shown below had an exposure time of nearly 40 hours.

  • Royal Institution laboratory taken by Katharine Reynolds

    "The Laboratory, looking West. Exposed from about 6 pm on Sat April 18 till 9.15 am on Mon April 20 1891. ff 22."

    Credit: Royal Institution

  • Royal Institution library in 1890 taken by Katharine Reynolds

    The first floor library in the early 1890s.

    Credit: Royal Institution

  • Royal Institution library in 1896 taken by Katharine Reynolds

    The first floor library in 1896 after two openings had been made into number 20 Albemarle Street following its acquisition for the Royal Institution.

    Credit: Royal Institution

  • Audience members at the Royal Institution taken by Katharine Reynolds

    Employees of the Institution posing as audience members on the balcony of the theatre.

    Credit: Royal Institution

Reynolds' photos

Reynolds was taking photos at the Ri during a time of great change to the organisation and its building. The photograph above shows the library on the first floor in the early 1890s. The one below shows the library after two openings into number 20 Albemarle Street had been made in 1896 following its acquisition for the Royal Institution.

While most of the photographs taken by Katharine Reynolds show the rooms of the Royal Institution empty of people there are a few images of people. In the final photograph above it seems that some of the employees of the Institution have been asked to pose as audience members on the balcony of the theatre.

The Reynolds collection contains several hundred images and three albums which were recently conserved with a grant from the MLA PRISM fund.