Today I attended a meeting of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society and what a wonderful presentation we had! Our guest speaker was Carol Roberts of the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA). Carol heads up the Conservation Lab at TSLA and has many years of experience in preservation of many different material types.
Today, Carol led us through a history of photography, including descriptions of several different types of photos, when they were predominantly used, and how to tell the differences between them. We learned about daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, carte de vistas, cabinet cards, crayon print portraits and more. She even shared examples from the TSLA collection such as this tin type picture shown below in a frame (as we learned today – daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes are called “case images” because they often come encased)
Carol also took the time to outline best practices for storing your family photos – from what kind of materials to look out for (e.g. not falling for the “acid-free” designation that is all too commonplace – for example, even duct tape says acid-free!). There are several criteria for understanding what is archival quality and what is not so it was helpful to have that understanding. I especially appreciated the information Carol shared on what supplies to purchase for printing pictures at home (such as Permalife Archival Bond printer paper and archival printer ink).
Throughout her presentation, Carol also shared some great stories about photos in her own family history. and how clues in the photos led to discoveries. We had a great turnout and her talk was so interesting we ended up going over by an hour!
Here are some resources Carol shared:
- Wilhelm Imaging Research – from a leader in photographic preservation research. Wilhelm has a free book “Permanence and Care” that is available for download.
- Tennessee State Library & Archives Resources – on their page, Caring for Historic Materials
- Library of Congress – resources from their Caring for Collections site
- National Archives – preserving family photographs
Additionally, several books were mentioned:
- Preserving Your Family Photographs – by Maureen Taylor
- Uncovering your Ancestry through Family Photographs – by Maureen Taylor
- Introduction to Civil War Photography – by Ross J. Kelbaugh
- Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa
- Shot in Alabama: A History of Photography, 1839-1841 by Frances Osburn Robb
After the talk, some attendees brought their materials up to Carol for her input. For example, one of the gentlemen who attended the January “Show and Tell” meeting with a photo of his ancestors learned that the picture he has was a crayon print and it was a charcoal reproduction from an original photo. Additionally, one pair of guests brought family documents they have from one of the oldest family lines in Brentwood for tips on how to best care for them.
This was such a great meeting! Even as I continue to work on my photo project I’ve learned some tips I can put into practice. It is so nice to be able to attend in-perosn meetings such as this. Thanks Carol for the great information you shared today!