Collection Reiss – Police forensic photography

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This exceptional collection presents the photographic work of a pioneer in forensic science: Rodolphe Archibald Reiss. Founder of the Institut de police scientifique at the University of Lausanne (IPS), Reiss bequeathed thousands of photographs tracing the birth of the discipline at the dawn of the 20th century. The collection covers all photographs produced at the institute, by Reiss or his successors, until his death in 1929. It also bears witness to his other activities in fields as diverse as art photography, war reporting and archaeology. A virtual exhibition, curated by specialists in the relevant disciplines, allows visitors to follow Reiss on this extraordinary path.

Trained as a chemist and a brilliant technician, Reiss contributed greatly to the development of the young "forensic science". From the analysis of banknotes to the documentation of crime scenes, he multiplied the fields of expertise of the IPS to such an extent that in 1920 his successor, M. A. Bischoff, was called upon to train the officers of the cantonal Police (Police de Sûreté vaudoise). From then on, the latter would largely deal with cases of homicide and violent crime. Numerous photographs taken by the Police de Sûreté between 1920 and 1924 complete the collection, attesting to this important transfer of expertise.

Concerned about the durability of his work, Reiss carefully documented it and entrusted it to the care of the institute, which became the Ecole des sciences criminelles (ESC). In 2016, an ambitious dematerialization and preservation project was launched by UNIRIS, the UNIL Information Resources and Archives Service, with the support of Memoriav, the Association for the preservation of the audiovisual heritage of Switzerland.
Thousands of photographs on glass plates were inventoried, digitised and integrated into the digital collections portal, which now offers unprecedented access to this unique heritage.

Rodolphe Archibald Reiss

Discover the preservation project in video :