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Camera museum image (Pic: Michaels Camera Video and Digital)
The store’s museum has more than 10,000 items and is considered the biggest private collection in the world (Pic: Michaels Camera Video and Digital)

A much-loved camera store that has been trading for 105 years – and its world-famous camera museum – has closed because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael’s Camera Video & Digital, based in the heart of Melbourne, Australia, is closing because of the enormous effect of lockdowns over the last 12 months.

Owner Peter Michael said the pandemic had caused customer footfall to drop by 80%. He said it was no longer viable to keep the store – which has been in the same position on the corner of Elizabeth and Lonsdale streets since 1916 – open for business.

The shop’s closure will also see the end of the world-renowned camera museum which is house on Level 1 of the shop. The museum is believed to be the largest camera collection in private hands and one of the most comprehensive displays in the world.

Emanuel Michael, the current owner’s grandfather, first opened a gun and pawn shop on the site in 1916. The shop then became a pharmacy which sold camera equipment in 1925, and eventually became a camera store in the 1970s.

‘In 1976 my father transformed our business into a dedicated camera business,” owner Peter Michael told Inside Imaging. “I commenced in 1983. Within a few years it was my task to clear the first floor which had been leased to a restaurant. We finally occupied the whole building.”

Michels Camera Store in 1950 (Pic: Michael Camera Video and Digital)
The store has occupied the same building in central Melbourne since 1916 (Pic: Michael Camera Video and Digital)

According to an interview in Australia’s The Age newspaper, Peter Michael’s first camera sale was a Minolta SR-T 101, which he sold when he was only 13.

The store, which covered more than 220 sq m (2,200 sq ft), has already closed. The business will continue to operate online and via its eBay store, but only to clear existing stock. It’s believed the business will close down in the coming months, Inside Imaging said.

However, Peter Michael hopes that the museum’s collection will be brought by a local institution such as the Melbourne Museum as “a lasting tribute to our family and our place in Melbourne”. The collection is so large that only around a third of the items can be shown at any one time.

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Stephen Dowling
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