The Daguerreotypes of Robert Cornelius
Join Atlas Obscura Society Philadelphia and CCAHA as we 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.
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 affected 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.