Calcutta Photograph Collection

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Did you know that American troops were stationed in India during the Second World War? They were posted in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata), the capital of West Bengal, in the 1940s. The Calcutta Photograph Collection comprises sixty photographs of Indian people and street scenes taken by a soldier during the time he was there. Recently, I was looking at these photographs and was fascinated to see the beautiful black and white images which serve as the visual historic record of Calcutta. These pictures show Indians working in shops, walking on the streets, going to temples, etc.

Why should you be interested in this collection? If you are writing a paper on the experience of American soldiers stationed in South Asia during the time of the Second World War, these would be excellent visual primary source materials that you can use with diaries, personal correspondence, or government documents. Or, if you are considering writing about western travelers' experience living in Calcutta in the 1940s, you can use these along with other travel or personal accounts. You can locate travel accounts about Calcutta by doing a subject search in Catalyst.

How did these photographs get here? A couple living in Calcutta at the time bought the album from an American soldier. After the war, they left India and settled in Baltimore, and in 1989 they gave the collection to the University. Our finding aid does not have any information about the photographer, but an identical set of 60 photographs on Flickr states that they were taken by Claude Waddell, a military photographer.

About Chella Vaidyanathan

Curator of 19th-21st Century Books & Manuscripts and Liaison Librarian for History, Africana Studies & Latin American Studies

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