NORFOLK Museums Service
Cromer Museum

The Road to Ypres: A touring exhibition of photographs by Olive Edis, Britain’s first female war photographer

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In 2017 Cromer Museum launched a brand new travelling show celebrating the war photography of pioneering Norfolk photographer Olive Edis, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Road to Ypres tells the story of Edis’ commission by the Imperial War Museum to document the work of the women’s services overseas during the First World War.

Olive Edis was one of the most important photographers of the early 20th century. At the height of her career she photographed the full spectrum of British society, from local fishermen and their families to prime ministers, royalty, scientists and artists. She lived and worked in North Norfolk, and had studios in Cromer and Sheringham, as well as London and Surrey.

Cromer Museum acquired a large collection of her work in 2008 from her former assistant Cyril Nunn. In the 60 years since her death Edis has been largely forgotten by history, and her huge contribution to British photography sadly overlooked. Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Olive Edis Project at Cromer Museum aims to raise awareness of Edis’ work and give her inspirational story the recognition it deserves.

The Road to Ypres: The War Photography of Olive Edis explores the unique collection of photographs taken by Edis during her month long tour of war-torn Europe in March 1919. She was the first British woman to be commissioned as an official war photographer, and one of only five British photographers ever commissioned to cover the First World War.

The exhibition brings together photographs from Cromer’s Olive Edis collection, some of which have never been displayed before, as well as rarely-seen photographs from the Imperial War Museum’s collection of her work. Extracts from Edis’ war diary bring the photographs to life and tell the story in the photographer’s own words.

A touchscreen interactive offers access to a wider selection of works from Cromer’s Olive Edis collection, including autochromes and evocative portraits of North Norfolk fishermen, as well as audio recordings from Edis’ war journal read by an actress, and media created by local communities in response to the collection.

The Road to Ypres is the first ever exhibition solely dedicated to Edis’ war work.

You can see the exhibition at these venues:

6 June – 26 August 2017
Museum of Farnham
, 38 West St, Farnham, GU9 7DX. Tel: 01252 715094.

2 September – 3 December 2017
King’s Lynn Town Hall
, Saturday Market Place, King’s Lynn, PE30 5DQ. Tel: 01553 777775.

9 December 2017 – 7 January 2018
The Belfry Centre for the Arts
, 23A Cromer Road, Overstrand, NR27 0NT. Tel: 01263 579196.

10 January – 31 January 2018
Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library
, The Forum, Millennium Plain, Norwich, NR2 1AW. Tel: 0344 800 8020.

6 June – 23 September 2018
Sheringham Museum
, Lifeboat Plain, Sheringham, NR26 8BG. Tel: 01263 824482.

Fishermen & Kings: The Photography of Olive Edis

A fully illustrated and informative book accompanies the exhibition and is available to buy at Cromer Museum as well as some tour venues (please contact individual venues for more details). Fishermen & Kings: the Photography of Olive Edis gives an overview of Edis’ career and work, and includes an introduction by exhibition curator Alistair Murphy, a short biography, and 140 full-colour images including a selection of Edis’ war photographs.

For further information or to book this touring exhibition please contact:

Elizabeth Elmore (until 17 July 2017)
Project Assistant (Olive Edis: Britain’s First Female War Photographer), Cromer Museum
01263 517964

Alistair Murphy
Curator, Cromer Museum
01263 517962

Alanna Baker (after 17 July 2017)
Museum Trainee: Exhibitions and Events

To read more about Olive Edis, keep up to date with the project, and explore more of Edis’ work, visit our blog.

The Olive Edis Project at Cromer Museum has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to share her work and story with a wider audience.

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