British photographic history

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Exhibition: History Drawn With Light

The Massachusetts Historical Society was founded in 1791, and wasted no time in acquainting itself with photography. When Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in 1839, the Society held a demonstration of the process at it's quarters, then on Tremont Street the following year. A few months later, the society acquired its first photograph - it showed the oldest building in Boston.

This exhibition entitled 'History Drawn with Light' opens with a handsomely appointed re-creation of a portrait studio of the antebellum era: oriental carpet, leather-upholstered armchair with stained-oak walls.  Adding to the domestic atmosphere are the presence of several contemporary paintings and an 1855 group portrait of society members. An 1877 panoramic photograph of the waterfront comes with a selection of smaller, numbered photographs of the waterfront today.  Light shields are available to offset the glare on the daguerreotypes on display. Boston boasted 43 daguerreotype studios by the end of the 1840s.

A news report can be found here, and details of the exhibition here. If you can't get across the pond, the Society has an interesting website with an online exhibition of early photography which can be found here.


Photo:  The Branded Hand (by Southworth & Hawes, Boston’s leading daguerreotypists) depicts punishment for trying to help slaves escape.


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