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The bulk of the photographs are in formats ranging from negatives to lantern slides, glass plates and albumen prints. They were taken by individuals who visited Dunhuang and other archaeological sites located on the ancient Silk Roads.

The explorer Marc Aurel Stein carried out extensive photographic surveys during his Central Asian expeditions. Many of his photographs are now held at the British Library (shelfmark prefix Photo 392/26) and Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. A significant number of photographs were also taken during the expeditions led by Count Otani and Sven Hedin.

As the Mogao Caves, in particular, gradually gained worldwide fame throughout the 20th century, more visitors travelled to the site, sometimes producing a photographic record of their journey. This includes the British scientist John Needham, whose photographs are at the Needham Institute, the son of the Earl of Rosse Desmond Parsons, the American journalists Irene Vongerh Vincent and John B Vincent and the lndian linguist and politician Raghu Vira . The IDP previously used repeat photography to document variations that occurred over time at several Silk Road sites, such as the Mogao Caves, Kharadong and Niya. To find these photographs, search for ‘Photo 1118’, ‘Photo 1125’, ‘Photo 1187’, and ‘Photo 1235’. Photographs of IDP’s past activities fall under the shelfmark prefix ‘Photo 1280’

Highlights from the collection