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Technical images

The technical images, as they are known, taken from the 1880s onwards are the oldest sub-collection in swisstopo’s image collection. It includes about 16,000 photographic objects. The photos predominantly show points in the national triangulation network. This sub-collection also documents how people used to work. It thus tells the story of the adventurous life of national topographers.

Operating the aerial camera Wild around 1930
Operating the aerial camera Wild around 1930

Technical images are a particular sub-collection of swisstopo’s image collection and are of great documentary value. The oldest photos date back to the 1880s. The focus on fields has varied over the decades. At the beginning, the collection mainly contained photographic documentation of points in the national triangulation network, especially church towers. Besides site and landscape photos, the collection also includes documentation of the working methods of the surveyors and topographers of the time, with their measurement instruments and tools for creating maps. The collection includes portraits of all staff members of the Federal Office of Topography since approx. 1920, as well as high-ranking personnel from approx. 1870.

Importance of the collection for the history of photography

The technical images collection impressively documents how the photographic medium was already used by the Federal Office of Topography at the end of the 19th century for documentation purposes and, shortly afterwards, for reproduction purposes too. This was a good 30 years before photography found what is still its primary use today at the Federal Office of Topography: photographic images of the landscape in the form of mapping photographs used as a basis for the process of topographic measurement.

The sub-collection is thus closely connected to other important historical documents pertaining to Switzerland, so-called “Helvetica”, since it documents the activities of a national institution that goes beyond the actual product in the form of numerous maps, mapping photographs and other basics. The way in which Switzerland was measured and mapped can be seen in these photographs.The photos in this collection show its staff, their instruments and their activities. They are a unique combination of impressive landscape and architectural images with photos of people working in the environment of their day, which in part no longer exists today. This means that this collection is extremely interesting in terms of the history of technology, besides its importance for the history of photography.
 

 


Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
Tel.
+41 58 469 01 11

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Relevant authority

Topography
Geodata Distribution
E-mail

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern

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