Download Nearly 70,000 Color Photos Showing Life Around the World in the Early 20th Century

Flower Seller in Early 20th Century France

A flower seller in Paris, France (1918)

One museum in France is changing the way we view the past thanks to its vast archive of color photographs from the early 20th century. The Albert Kahn Museum has made nearly 70,000 photographs available to the public at high resolution as part of its quest to digitize The Archives of the Planet project.

French banker Albert Kahn started the project in 1908 with the goal to photograph humanity around the world. The project continued until 1931, with Kahn hiring 12 professional photographers to travel to 50 countries. Not only did they take portraits of people and monuments, but they also documented important historical events like the Turkish War of Independence and the golden jubilee of Jagatjit Singh, the last ruling Maharaja of Kapurthala State.

After compiling 72,000 photos and videos, the project only came to a halt after the stock market crash of 1929 bankrupted Kahn. Since 1990, the Albert Kahn Museum has administered the collection. And while the photos were previously available online, a difficult web interface and low resolution made it difficult to fully enjoy the work.

Now, everything has been made easily available and the public can fully appreciate Kahn's documentation of a world that was coming into globalization. Through the Image Portal, visitors can enjoy a look at 80% of the Archives of the Planet. The only sticking point is the portal is in French, but it's well worth firing up Google Translate to peruse the images.

Nearly 70,000 photos from the Archives of the Planet are now available to download at high resolution.

Fayz Bey el Azm, a companion of Emir Faisal

Fayz Bey el Azm, a companion of Emir Faisal, in Quweira, Arabia (present-day Jordan) (1918)

Buddhist lama in Beijing, China

Buddhist lama in Beijing, China (1913)

French Front Line During World War I

France Front line trench at Le Hamel, Picardy (1915)

Market scene in Krusevac, Serbia

Market scene in Krusevac, Serbia (1913)

The images were taken between 1908 and 1931 in a project financed by French banker Albert Kahn.

A young woman splitting the betel leaf in Hanoi

A young woman splitting the betel leaf during the first phase of making a quid of betel in Hà-nôi, Tonkin, Indochina (1916)

Young Kurdish women in Mar Yakoub, Iraq

Young Kurdish women in Mar Yakoub, Iraq (1927)

Flower vendors for worshipers near Golden Temple of Sikhs in Amritsar, India

Flower vendors for worshipers near Golden Temple of Sikhs in Amritsar, India (1914)

A young carpet weaver in front of her loom in Algiers, Algeria

A young carpet weaver in front of her loom in Algiers, Algeria (1909 or 1910)

Senegalese sniper in Fez, Morocco

Senegalese sniper in Fez, Morocco (1913)

Albert Kahn Museum: Website | Facebook | Instagram

All images via Albert Kahn Museum (Public Domain).

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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