The charity was responding to an online petition calling on the UK Government to save 500,000 original Barnardo’s images and 300 films dating back to 1874, amid fears that the charity is set to destroy them as part of a digitisation plan.

The move followed an article that appeared on the British photographic history website.

The Barnardo’s team responsible for the archive is moving to a new East London base. But the building is not large enough to house all the photos.

The collection includes a visual history of Barnardo’s work in Canada and Australia.

Among those backing the petition was Thelma Eley from Australia.

In a blog accompanying the petition she wrote: ‘There is a direct emotional impact when a person touches a photo of themselves or a family member.

‘It links them back in time directly, far more so than a digitised version or a copy of a photo.

‘There is something different about an original photograph. It is vital that these photos be saved in their original form.’

The petition was drawn up by Geoff Barker of Sydney, Australia and has so far won more than 1,000 signatures.

However, Barnardo’s says the fears on which the protests were based are misplaced.

‘We are not going to destroy our photographic archive,’ insisted a Barnardo’s spokeswoman, who also disputed the numbers involved.

But she accepted that the charity needs to find a new home for 210,000 photographs once they have been digitised, because the new premises are too small and the cost of storing the pictures under climate-controlled conditions too high.

Yet, it seems the pictures may not be left homeless. There may be a happy ending.

Interest generated by the online commotion may help secure the archive’s future.

Barnardo’s tells Amateur Photographer that the petition has led to 40 offers to re-house part of its archive as a direct result of the petition.