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Friends Historical Library cased photographs collection

 Collection
Identifier: SFHL-PA-107

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of miscellaneous cased photographs - primarily daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, with some other formats - collected at various times from various sources by the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Many were acquired as parts of manuscript collections of family papers.

Dates

  • approximately 1840-1870

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Items in this collection are fragile and sensitive to light, so access may be restricted. However, most of the collection has been scanned. Please inquire with staff (friends@swarthmore.edu) to request digital copies.

Copyright and Rights Information

Friends Historical Library believes all of the items in this collection to be in the Public Domain in the United States, and is not aware of any restrictions on their use. However, the user is responsible for making a final determination of copyright status before reproducing. See http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/NoC-US/1.0/.

Biographical / Historical

Cased photographs are a class of photographs common in the mid-19th century mounted in a shallow, hinged box. Typically ambrotypes and daguerreotypes. The case provided protection for fragile processes. The cases were often made of wood with a tooled leather, paper, or cloth cover, or from an early molded composite (see union case).

A daguerreotype is a photograph made on a silver-coated copper plate and developed using fumes of mercury. Invented by Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre in the late 1830s and announced publicly in 1839, daguerreotypes were the first practical photographic process. They remained common until the popularization of the ambrotype in 1854. The surface is highly reflective. The image appears as a positive when viewed while reflecting a dark background and as a negative when reflecting a light background. The image is monochromatic, although color may have been added by hand. Unless special camera optics were used, the image is laterally reversed. The surface is fragile and may be tarnished. To protect the image, a daguerreotype is almost always mounted under glass with a paper seal around the edge; most daguerreotypes are mounted in a hinged case.

An ambrotype is an underexposed, underdeveloped, wet-collodion negative on glass that, when viewed with a dark background, appears as a positive image. The dark background is commonly a black varnish applied to the glass base but is sometimes a separate material behind the glass or the glass base itself may be dark. The same process using a black-varnished metal plate is known as a tintype. Ambrotypes were patented in 1854 by James Ambrose Cutting and were common through the 1870s. They largely supplanted daguerreotypes.

Citation: Richard Pearce-Moses, "A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology," Society of American Archivists, 2005. https://www2.archivists.org/glossary

Extent

4 Cubic Feet

Language

English

Overview

This collection consists of miscellaneous cased photographs - primarily daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, with some other formats - collected at various times from various sources by the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Many were acquired as parts of manuscript collections of family papers.

Arrangement

Photographs are listed in the inventory alphabetically by subject, but they are stored based on the order they were received by the Friends Historical Library.

Existence and Location of Copies

Most of the items in this collection have been scanned.

Processing Information

This collection was previously cataloged in a Filemaker database. The database was converted to EAD and imported into ArchivesSpace in 2018.

A small number of the items in this collection received conservation treatment from students in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation, 1984-1998.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Find It at the Library

Most of the materials in this catalog are not digitized and can only be accessed in person. Please see our website for more information about visiting Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College Library

Contact:
500 College Avenue
Swarthmore Pennsylvania 19081 USA