Ever wondered how people worked out a century ago? Check out photos here

More than two million photographs from 34 countries make up the online photography collection launched recently by Europeana, the EU digital platform for cultural heritage.

It allows learning not only about photography itself but also the history of cultures, fashion, entertainment and many other social phenomena.

Euronews took a look at the treasures across the initiative’s vast portfolio. First, we explored how Lyon, where our headquarters is situated, looked around 130 years ago. This photo depicts Eglise St. Paul in 1887, taken by famous 19th-century French architectural photographer Séraphin-Médéric Mieusement, with a modern-day image of the same place to make a comparison.

Thanks to the National Library of Romania we learned more about business cards at the end of 19th century. A portrait of each card’s owner provides further information and context.

In the 1920s, women began to wear more comfortable clothes, shorter skirts and trousers. Cloche hats remained popular till the mid-1930s. Here are few images from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam which show the looks of people at the beginning of last century.

Some interesting photographs can be found in the domain of sport and wellness: Here is a photograph of a cross-sectional measuring device that gym visitors could use to keep track of changes to their bodies.

This old-fashioned form of core-training was performed with a fancy pelvis-twisting apparatus, made of wood with velvet trim.

These images are provided to Europeana photography by The Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology.

Girona City Council shared some images of factories taken between 1910 and 1920. Rather different from many European workspaces these days. Let’s compare:

On the subject of photography as an artform, a hundred years ago, the same as present day, photographers were looking for a beauty in the simple things. Thanks to a collection Beauty in banality in Europeana’s Photography section, we can imagine how Instagram at the beginning of the XXth century might have looked.

“By depicting everyday objects and scenes, photographers bestow mystery and intrigue upon the most inconspicuous subjects,” a Europeana spokesperson explained.

Shadows and light reflection are the secret ingredients of this astonishing image showing a clock manufactured by the Smiths of the Cordang atelier in the Netherlands. This image was taken in 1938 in the Hague.” The name of the skilful photographer is unknown.

Catalan photographer Josep Masana Fargas overlaid several photos to create a beautiful image of a radiator collection!

Finally, this is what a photographer’s workspace looked a century ago. Image provided by the National Library of France.

Europeana Photography is an entertaining way to lose yourself in images past and present. Photos can be searched through by colour, file size or format. The project also offers a section called “what’s new” which contains selections of images grouped by one topic.

The descriptions for many photographs are not translated into English, though, so some time and investigation skills are sometimes required to figure out what exactly you are looking at.
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