The Museum der Moderne Salzburg, formerly known as the Museum of Modern Art and Graphic Art Collection – Rupertinum, has been collecting photographs since 1981, two years before the Museum was officially opened in Salzburg. Under the auspices of its first director, Otto Breicha, the Museum began purchasing photographs using funds provided by the Province of Salzburg and by the federal government, while collections of individual artists were partly financed by both budgets. Breicha and his later long-time curator of photography Margit Zuckriegl were responsible for determining the initial focus of the photographic collection; they also both served together for many years on the Austrian Federal Advisory Board for Photography. Since they were founded, the photographic collections of the Province of Salzburg and of the Federal Government have been managed in Salzburg as the “Österreichische Fotogalerie” (Austrian Photo Gallery). The extensive holdings of photographic works owned by the Province of Salzburg and the federal government are today held by the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, where they are designated – in line with international custom – as the “Sammlung Fotografie & Medienkunst” (Photographic and Media Art Collection).
Today, the Photographic Collection of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg has an inventory of more than 20,000 works. These comprise the holdings of the Province of Salzburg (10,000 works) and the photo collection of the Austrian federal government (12,000 works). The Photographic Collection of the Museum der Moderne Salzburg overall constitutes the national memory of images and media in Austria. The history of this Collection allows us to trace the history of institutional developments, political goals, the networks that emerged among the protagonists, the promotion and public appreciation of photographers in Austria, and the self-image that they developed. The Collection has the character of an organically grown archive that has been put together by a multitude of experts. Over a period of more than 40 years, the Museum has acquired individual works and entire collections that cannot be found anywhere else in Austria. The Photographic Collection is distinctive in its scope, and also because by bringing together the collections of the Province of Salzburg and the federal government, it provides unrivalled, comprehensive coverage of the period from 1945 to the present day.