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Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii was born near Moscow in 1863. Educated as a chemist, Prokudin-Gorskii applied his knowledge and skills towards the advancement of photography. He was especially interested in the reproduction of color, which at the time was a tedious and difficult process.

His collection features color photographic surveys of the vast Russian Empire made between ca. 1905 and 1915. Frequent subjects among the 2,607 distinct images include people, religious architecture, historic sites, industry and agriculture, public works construction, scenes along water and railway transportation routes, and views of villages and cities.

In 1948, this collection was purchased by The Library of Congress in Washington.