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Fratelli Alinari, The three Alinari brothers: Giuseppe, Leopoldo and Romualdo, 1860, glass plate negative 21x27 cm, Alinari Archives, Florence.
The origin of Fratelli Alinari
The history of the Alinari photographic collection began in Florence in 1852 when Leopoldo Alinari set up his first photographic laboratory in Florence and together with his brothers Giuseppe e Romualdo founded the F.lli Alinari firm.
The historical headquarters
In 1863 Leopoldo built what was the first photographic factory in the worldin Via Nazionale, later Largo Alinari; this building was the firm's headquarters for over 150 years and from here the huge photographic collection, one of the largest existing photographic archives formed through 'sedimentation', has come down to us.
Alinari and the artistic heritage of Italy
In 1885 F.lli Alinari opened a publishing house and, at the beginning of the 20th century, established important partnerships with the firms Brogi in Florence and Anderson in Rome.
They systematically photographed Italy's historical, artistic and architectural heritage, museum collections and landscape, spreading Italian culture and Fine Art throughout the world.
Transfers of ownership and new acquisitions of archives
Following the crisis caused by the Great War, in 1920 the company passed into the hands of a group of Tuscan aristocrats, led by Baron Ricasoli. In 1957, it was acquired by Senator Vittorio Cini.
Thanks to his farsightedness, valuable photographic archives such as the Brogi, Anderson, Chauffourier and Fiorentini holdings were acquired, greatly enriching the value of the company's own photographic collections.
Balocchi Vincenzo, Forte Belvedere in Florence, 1957, cellulose acetate film 6x9 cm, Alinari Archives-Balocchi Archive, Florence.
The historical value of the holdings
In the mid-1970s, the firm passed into the hands of the Zevi family from Milan and in 1977 a major exhibition was held at Forte Belvederein Florence, which proved an exceptional success, both in terms of public and catalogue sales, initiating a phase in which the holdings were valued above all for their historical and documentary function.
Creation of the digital collection
In 1982 the property passed to the De Polo family from Trieste who, in addition to establishing the Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotograﬁa (Alinari National Museum of Photography), inaugurated a new strategy: the acquisition of photographic collections in Italy and abroad and, at the end of the 1990s, undertaking their digitalisation and sale, in a manner similar to what is done in the United States by Getty and Corbis. The De Polos created a commercial network for the sale of their own and other archives’ digital images all over the world, and promoted exhibitions to disseminate them.
The Tuscany Region acquires the holdings
In June 2018, the Soprintendenza Archivistica e Bibliografica della Toscana declared the Alinari holdings to be of notable historical interest (art.13 of the Codice dei beni culturali e del paesaggio - Cultural heritage and landscape code).
The Region passed regional law no. 65 of 13th November 2019 by which it recognises the exceptional cultural value of the Alinari holdings and resolved to purchase them.
In December 2019 the MIBACT waived its right of pre-emption and the Alinari heritage more than five million items (mainly photographs) was acquired by the Tuscany Region, which activated procedures and actions to assure its proper conservation and promotion.
Thus began an operation of cultural policy and investment of fundamental importance, which has saved this archive – one unique in the world for its size and value – from dispersal and dismemberment, while also guaranteeing its future use and accessibility.
Creation of the Fondazione Alinari per la Fotograﬁa
In order to make best use of the Alinari holdings while assuring its conservation and promotion, in February 2020 the Region of Tuscany set up a technical and scientific committee comprising highly qualified professionals in the sector to monitor and update a framework document entitled Strategic plan for the cultural development of the Alinari holdings (Delibera n.1231 del 15-09-2020).
In support of this heritage, the Region is encouraging the establishment of a scientific international community, through agreements with universities and research institutes.
The participatory foundation has been chosen as the most appropriate operational model for governing the Alinari holdings and on 16th July, 2020 the Tuscany Region founded the FAF - Fondazione Alinari per la Fotografia at Palazzo Guadagni Strozzi Sacrati in Florence, marking a new beginning in the history of the Alinari heritage (Statute).
One year after the purchase of the analogical collection, in December 2020 the purchase of the digital collections was finalised, consisting of the archive of over 250,000 images, with the relative databases, the management and storage systems, the trademarks and the rights of use of the images.
After the complex work of transferring the digital materials to the servers of the Tuscany Region and the renegotiation of the contracts between FAF and the third-party archives, F.lli Alinari I.D.E.A. s.p.a. ceased its activities and FAF Toscana, to which the holdings were conferred by the Tuscany Region, entered into full operation.