In 2005, curators had a horrifying experience when historical images (daguerreotypes) were deteriorating as the 150-year old images were being displayed in an exhibit titled “Young America.” Some 25 of the photographs were affected, five of them sustaining critical damage. The debacle occasioned a research project involving conservators, physicists, and nanotechnology (see my Jan. 10, 2013 posting for more about the 2005 exhibit and resulting research project).
A new daguerreotype exhibit currently taking place showcases the results of that research according to a Nov. 13, 2015 University of Rochester news release,
In 1839, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre unveiled one of the world’s first successful photographic mediums: the daguerreotype. The process transformed the human experience by providing a means to capture light and record people, places, and events. The University of Rochester is leading groundbreaking nanotechnology research that explores the extraordinary qualities of this photographic process. A new exhibition in Rush Rhees Library showcases the results of this research, while bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities. …
… From 2010-2014, a National Science Foundation grant supported nanotechnology research conducted by two University of Rochester scientists—Nicholas Bigelow, Lee A. DuBridge Professor of Physics, and Ralph Wiegandt, visiting research scientist and conservator—who explored how environment impacts the survival of these unique, non-reproducible images. In addition to conservation science and cultural research, Bigelow and Wiegandt are also investigating ways in which the chemical and physical processes used to create daguerreotypes can influence modern nanofabrication and nanotechnology.
“The daguerreotype should be considered one of humankind’s most disruptive technological advances,” Bigelow and Wiegandt said. “Not only was it the first successful imaging medium, it was also the first truly engineered nanotechnology. The daguerreotype was a prescient catalyst to the ensuing cascade of discoveries in physics and chemistry over the latter half of the 19th century and into the 20th.”
Blending the past with the future, the exhibition displays the first known daguerreotype of a Rochester graduating class (1853) alongside a 2015 daguerreotype of current University President Joel Seligman, created by Rochester daguerreotypist Irving Pobboravsky.
Both Bigelow and Wiegandt are mentioned in the 2013 posting describing the research project’s inception.
For anyone who’s in the area of New York state where the University of Rochester is located, the exhibit will run until February 29, 2016 in the Friedlander Lobby of Rush Rhees Library. Plus, there’s this from the news release,
A special presentation about the scientific advances surrounding the daguerreotype and their relationship to cultural preservation will be led by Bigelow, Wiegandt, and Jim Kuhn, assistant dean for Special Collections and Preservation, on December 14 from 7-9 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library. For more information visit: http://www.library.rochester.edu/event/daguerreotype-exhibition or call (585).
There’s no indication that the special presentation will be livestreamed or recorded and made available at a later date.