Prominent in the history of the photography of works of art is the production of albums containing reproductive prints or photographs of a particular subject. In the late 1970s the department began to actively collect such objects, significantly strengthening the nineteenth-century rare holdings. These albums concern all facets of art history, with particular attention to images of Salon exhibitions, international fairs, and expositions. They range from professionally bound books intended for circulation to personal scrapbooks of trips abroad. Snapshot photography did not become widespread until the 1890s; therefore, most of the images in these scrapbooks were purchased from professionals as mementos of a trip and then arranged in an album by the traveler.
In addition to its importance for art history, the album collection is of great interest to students of the history of photography because of the wide range of processes represented. Images include photomechanical prints such as letterpress halftones, photogravures, and collotypes, as well as true photographs, including woodburytypes and platinotypes, and albumen, collodion, carbon, gelatin, and salted paper prints. (Examples of many of these processes are also found in other areas of the collection, particularly albumen, carbon, and gelatin prints.) The collection includes 660 albums to date.