The Daguerreotypes of Robert Cornelius - Atlas Obscura

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Daguerreotypes of Robert Cornelius

Join us for a last chance to learn about the past and present of photography in Philadelphia and the city's groundbreaking work to preserve its history!

Join Atlas Obscura Society Philadelphia and The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) to explore early photography in Philadelphia and current preservation efforts underway.

Philadelphia was an epicenter for early photography in 1839. America’s oldest extant photograph was taken in Center City and improvements to the daguerreotype process were made by Philadelphians Paul Beck Goddard and Robert Cornelius. Cornelius took what is heralded as the first “selfie”—a photographic self-portrait. He also established Philadelphia’s first photographic portrait studio.

Few daguerreotypes from this period of rapid development have been preserved. However, a  significant body of daguerreotypes by Robert Cornelius remain. Rachel Wetzel, Photograph Conservator at the CCAHA has been working with colleagues to catalog all of the existing daguerreotypes by Cornelius, as part of a project that will culminate in a publicly searchable database hosted at Yale University’s Lens Media Lab. Rachel is moving on from Philadelphia but luckily will give us one more talk about her project!

Held at the CCAHA, this event includes a lecture on the history of early photography in Philadelphia. Wetzel will explain the history of daguerreotype cleaning treatments and how they've effected the long-term stability of the images. The audience will also get a first glance at the images and information included in the Cornelius daguerreotype database and a behind-the-scenes tour of CCAHA’s conservation lab. Light snacks will be provided. 

The Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) is a nonprofit conservation facility specializing in the treatment of works on paper, photographs, and books through conservation and state-of-the-art digital imaging services.

Additional Details

  • Our event is on the second floor of CCAHA, which is only accessible via stairs.


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