Digital Collection: Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection

The Digital Library Program is pleased to announce the launch of the Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection.  This remarkable array of images captures 1930s-1940s Shanghai, a time and place that was rife with change and rich with culture.  The collection’s wide variety of subject Sc_sjrc001700001matters includes the lives of Chinese citizens, Jewish Holocaust refugees, Sephardic and Baghdadi Jewish communities, French and British nationals, Shanghai cityscapes and the Japanese military presence.

Werner von Boltenstern, the photographer and donor of LMU’s enormous postcard collection, was a German national who set out to see the world in the late 1920s. Having few resources, he funded his travels by taking and selling photographs.  According to his daughter, Erica, von Boltenstern claimed there were two ways toSc_sjrc002620001 earn money, “one was haircutting and one was photography.” (Thank goodness for us he chose the latter!)  In the late 1930s von Boltenstern landed in Shanghai where he stayed due to impending war, making him, like many of the people in his photographs, a refugee.

Recently a crowd-sourcing effort was launched to seek more information about this remarkable collection.  (Inquiries in the form of emails and Tweets were sent to individuals and institutions that might be able to provide insight.)  Within a week’s time responses began pouring in from across the United States, Australia, France, Germany, Shanghai, Great Britain, and Hong Kong.  Such immediate results help to illustrate what we already know about this collection; it has tremendous Sc_sjrc005050001-992x1024-992x1024historical, cultural and, likely for people who were there, personal value.

To view the  Werner von Boltenstern Shanghai Photograph and Negative Collection visit the William H. Hannon Library’s Digital Collections.  For more about the collection see the collection’s research guide.

To inquire about the Digital Collections, please contact

For research consultations about and access to the primary source material, please contact the Department of Archives and Special Collections by email or by phone 310.338.5710.