The Benaki Museum’s Photographic Archives Department was established in 1973 to collect, preserve and document photographs of Early Christian, Byzantine
and post-Byzantine art and architecture. Since then the Department’s original scope has gradually been extended to cover images of Greece and its culture,
as well as its history and contemporary society.
The Department now includes photographs depicting traditional trades, customs, and agricultural practices, the Occupation and post-war periods, social and
cultural events, antiquities, Byzantine churches, neo-classical and traditional architecture and urban settlements.
The Photographic Archives Department comprises 300,000 negatives and 25,000 original photographs dating from the 19th and 20th centuries. It was created
through the purchase or donation of important collections, including those of the professional photographers Nelly's, Voula Papaioannou, Pericles
Papachatzidakis, Dimitris Harissiadis, Nikolaos Rizos, Nikolaos Tombazis, as well as those of the amateur photographers Rena Andreadi, Stephanos
Malikopoulos, Loukas Benakis, and Ioannis Charamis. The Department also contains the photograph collections of the Byzantinologist Laskarina Boura,
the architect Maria Zagorisiou, and the writer Elli Papadimitriou.
The Photographic Archives Department is open to all researchers. For their assistance a card catalogue of 50,000 prints was compiled based on subject matter
and location. Moreover, there are plans create a complete electronic catalogue of the entire collection in the near future.
In addition to collecting and preserving material, the Photographic Archives Department has also been involved in:
a) organising photography exhibitions in Greece and abroad;
b) publishing books on photographs and photography;
c) planning seminars, conferences, and other events devoted to photography.
Among its more recent activities, the Photographic Archives Department has been researching the history of photography in Greece as well as the work of
early Greek photographers. It has also commissioned contemporary photographers to record subjects of Greek interest.
Since 1999, the Photographic Archives Department has been housed in new premises, donated by Mary Carolou and Penelope Vlangali, at Plateia Philikes
Hetaireias 15 in Kolonaki. This new space is equipped with a temperature-controlled storeroom, space for the collections, a reading room, a darkroom,
as well as facilities for conservation and restoration.