The Topographical Collection of the Wien Museum contains about 100,000 photographs. Exemplars include some of the earliest “one-off” processes such as the daguerreotype, a largely complete collection of glass negatives as well as a stock of stereoscopic photographs. Especially valuable are 150 large-format photographs on salt paper, created around 1860 as part of several photographic campaigns by the k.k. Hof- und Staatsdruckerei (Imperial and Royal State Printing Office). Here we can find, among other items, a St. Stephen’s Cathedral panorama from 1860 by Leopold Weiss and a photo-documentary of the Vienna City Fortification shortly before demolition in 1857.
The Topographical Photo Collection is centred around architectural and urban photography around 1900. At this time, awareness of the need to preserve historical buildings was growing. Specifically, it was seen as imperative to record the tremendous changes in construction works that had occurred in the last third of the 19th century. Furthermore, the new opportunities technically speaking of serial production contributed to the wide dissemination of these photographs. The great quantity of material – at least for the inner districts – enables a pictorial documentation of the city around the fin-de-siècle. Many of the most important Viennese city photographers of this period are represented in the collection, including Michael Frankenstein, Franz Holluber, Josef Mutterer, Moritz Nähr, Bruno Reiffenstein and Anton Karl Schuster. However, identification of photographers is possible today only on a limited scale given that the city photographs served primarily documentary purposes. Neither the individual photograph nor the photographer was the main point here; the value of a collection was determined purely by its range.
One exception to this is the Viennese architecture and landscape photographer August Stauda (1861-1927). His photographs were removed from the exclusively topographical categorisation and now represent a valuable special sub-collection. Around 1900 Stauda captured Vienna in more than 3,000 photographs and thereby created a meticulous record of “Old Vienna” which at the time was in danger of vanishing .
A further highlight is the glass negative collection of Martin Gerlach Jr. (1879-1944). Between 1925 and the late 1930s he photographed changes in urban building works ranging from the municipal housing blocks of “Red Vienna” to the construction of the panoramic road leading from the city up to the local mountain Kahlenberg (“Höhenstrasse”). The collection of the actor and cultural historian Fred Hennings (1895-1981) also comprises several thousand city views. Not only was Hennings a collector of topographical city views, he also systematically photographed the Vienna inner city even during the final years of the war, and so captured its state prior to its partial destruction.