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From stockroom to cyberspace. Thatís how far our photos have come.

The Beginning: A Search for Models

Retrato traces its roots to a small stockroom in the Insular Life building and, later, the Filipinas Life building on Ayala Avenue. There, from 1968 to 1974, a research team worked with sculptors, painters, and craftsmen to make 60 dioramas for the proposed Filipinas Foundation museum. Their task: to render Philippine history, from the Pleistocene era to contemporary times, in visual form.

Since the dioramas had to be accurate to the last detail, the team combed public and private libraries for models of historical figures, architecture, costumes, landscapes, and other visual requirements.

The Iconographic Archives: A Byproduct of Research

The materials accumulated over the seven-year project formed the nucleus of the iconographic archives conceived by artist Fernando Zobel as a complement to the dioramas. Initially, the archives consisted of:

  • The watercolor drawings of Carl Johann Karuth, a 19th-century German expatriate
  • An album of 19th-century miniaturist Damian Domingo
  • Rare prints
  • Illustrations from 19th-century books and periodicals from the Ayala Archives

These were later augmented by:

  • Archaeological and ethnographic artifacts from the National Museum
  • Lithographs, photo engravings, and Rizaliana from the Lopez Memorial Museum
  • Antique and art pieces from the collections of Luis Araneta and Jorge Vargas
  • Prints and photographs from the Carlos Quirino collection
  • Paintings and sketches of plants and animals from the Ayala Archives

The archives thus gathered under one roof visual resources culled from the countryís foremost collections of Filipiniana.

The Ayala Museum

The archives eventually found a home in the Ayala Museum, where the dioramas are now housed as a permanent exhibit. In 1970 historian Carlos Quirino, the first Museum director, organized photo-research teams to document historic structures such as churches, old houses, public buildings, and town plazas, as well as indigenous peoples, art exhibits, rites, and festivals.

The collection grew. A filing system evolved. The photos were mounted and annotated; slides and films were made available for viewing.

The Filipinas Heritage Library Photo Archive

In August 1996, the centennial of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the collection was moved to the newly opened Filipinas Heritage Library. Around July 1998, Emelina S. Almario, the first director of the Library, formed a team to lay the groundwork for digitization of the images. She named the project Retrato.

The Retrato Project
Retrato's Roots
Classification Scheme
Technology Used

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