The Society's Collection is one of the world's great photography collections. It, along with its archive and library is now owned by the nation.
It was Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, a staunch supporter of the Society, who suggested that The Society began to collect photographs to record the rapid technical process in photography, which was supplemented as time went on by collections of books and apparatus.
Henry Peach Robinson, Fading Away, 1858.
A major influence on the Collection was exercised by John Dudley Johnston, who was President twice and a curator of the Collection for thirty-one years. It was he who steered the collection in the direction of pictorialism and established it as one of the most important photographic collections in the world.
During The Society's two decades in Bath a series of important exhibitions used the Collection as their basis and a permanent exhibition on the history of photography drawn from it was arranged around the main Octagon gallery.
In June 2002 a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £3.75 million was announced, which, together with a grant of £342,000 from the National Art Collections Fund (Art Fund) and funding from Yorkshire Forward facilitated the transfer of The Society's Collection of some 250,000 photographs and artefacts to the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, now the National Media Museum, which is a part of the Science Museum. The transfer, in the words of Michael G Wilson OBE, transformed the national collection of photography to one of the most important collections in the world.
The Collection was transferred from the National Media Museum to the Victoria and Albert Museum in Spring 2017, where it continues to be available to the public and researchers.