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Daguerreotype Research


Unidentified photographer (French). Young woman and little girl, posed holding small spaniel dog, ca. 1855. Daguerreotype. George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company, ex-collection Gabriel Cromer.


Unidentified photographer (American). Melissa E. Barsdale Howard, 1855. Daguerreotype. George Eastman Museum, gift of Howard A. Gardiner.


George N. Barnard (American, 1819–1902). Fire at the Ames and Doolittle Mills, Oswego, New York, July 5, 1853. Daguerreotype with applied color. George Eastman Museum, purchase.


Unidentified photographer. Girl in a checkered dress, ca. 1944. Daguerreotype. George Eastman Museum, gift of Mark H. Newman.

The Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center has conducted extensive research on the daguerreotype. The Eastman Museum's vast holdings of daguerreotypes is a singular world resource and has long made the museum a center for historical and material research of the medium.

The daguerreotype was the first widely produced photograph, invented in France by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre in 1839. It is an image on a polished silver plate—each one a unique positive image. Daguerreotypes were produced for only twenty years before the process was replaced with ambrotypes, tintypes, and collodion negatives.

The signature fragility and short historical time in use makes the daguerreotype a precious record. The Eastman Museum has led a research effort to understand the chemistry and physics of the daguerreotype and introducing methods to prevent its deterioration. Much of this research has been funded by federal agencies, such as the National Endowment of the Arts, and private foundations, most notably the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Getty Foundation. Recent research on the daguerreotype has been carried out in collaboration with the University of Rochester through a National Science Foundation grant in the program Chemistry and Materials Research at the Interface between Science and Art (SCIART).

Additional Resources

The Nanotechnology of the Daguerreotype
A video produced by University of Rochester that explains the collaborative project between the university and the Eastman Museum.

Digital Analysis and Restoration of Daguerreotypes (PDF)
A paper published by the University of Rochester based on research by the university and the Eastman Museum.

Cincinnati Panorama of 1848: Cincinnati Public Library and University of Rochester