Digital Collections

The Silvery Avon

Jack and Beverly Wilgus History of Photography Collection

The Silvery Avon, 1892

Mending Nets

Holland; Mending nets
Unknown, ca. 1890s

Where Shakespeare Lived

Here Shakespeare Was Born
James Leon Williams, 1892

 General Post-Office, Army of the Potomac, Brandy Station, Virginia.

General Post-Office, Army of the
Potomac, Brandy Station, Virginia.

Alexander Gardner, 1864

On the Isis from Foely, Oxford.

On the Isis from Foely, Oxford.
Valentine & Sons, ca. 1870-1885

Ithaca Falls

Ithaca Falls
William Henry Jackson, 1901

About the Collection

Holding library: DeGolyer Library

View more collections held by DeGolyer Library


A GroupCollectors, Jack and Beverly Wilgus and the Wilgus History of Photography Collection

Jack and Beverly Wilgus have collected photography for 50 years.  Their collection of literally tens of thousands of photographs in various processes, equipment, and objects dating from pre-photography to the end of the 20th century is stunning. The undisputed masters are represented, William Henry Fox Talbot, Anna Atkins, Southworth & Hawes, Hill & Adamson, Julia Margaret Cameron, Brady, Muybridge, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Walker Evans, and Aaron Siskind, to name a few, but also cameras, optical toys, stereos, projectors, vernacular images, real photographic postcards, books and so much more. Julia Margaret Cameron salt print "Sir John Herschel."

Acquiring photography has been a lifelong passion for the Wilguses. With Jack and Beverly, collecting is a serious endeavor, not indiscriminate acquiring. Their collecting has been studied and deliberate, systematized. Whether or not it’s a Julia Margaret Cameron or a photographic paperweight, with a single-minded purpose, they sought the finest examples, sometimes hunting for a desired piece, waiting years for its acquisition, all in excellent condition. 

The Wilgus history of photography collection is truly encyclopedic, with extraordinary range and quality. From the start of their collecting, the Wilguses have acquired approximately 30,000 photographs and related materials. The collection is a celebration of depth, breadth and quality in the medium.

Perhaps what has honed their interest and expertise is that the Wilguses are both photographers and teachers. As image-makers, they know what they are looking at and what makes a “good” photograph. Beginning in 1968 with their first photographic purchase, as it evolved, the collection, became the perfect educational tool for teaching history of photography with examples from all periods. What an honor it is to have the Wilgus history of photography collection being donated to the DeGolyer Library. With their continued donations to the DeGolyer, their world-class collection will be studied by future generations at SMU.

See more items featuring historical photography in these collections:

Items in SMU Libraries Digital Collections are digitized following the nCDS Digitization Guidelines and Procedures. Digital collections are created under the guidelines of the Digital Collections Workflow and Metadata Guidelines, or through specialized metadata profiles tailored for the collection.

Copyright usage terms vary throughout the collection. Each item contains information about usage terms. If SMU does not have the right to publish the item on the Internet, only the item's metadata will be available and the digitized object will be available on a restricted access basis. Such items may only be viewed on campus. When items are available for use, please cite DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. A high-quality version of these files may be obtained for a fee by contacting

For more information about the collection, please contact