Technology Preserves Examples of the First Type of Photography

The daguerreotype is considered to be the first form of photography, invented by Frenchman Louis Daguerre in 1839. A museum in Rochester, NY owns one of the largest collections of this remarkable technology, and conservators have discovered that the silver plates that the images are recorded on have been deteriorating over time. Using a scanning electron microscope, physicists at the University of Rochester have recently observed previously unknown properties. The nanostructure of these very old and very high-resolution photographs are actually a biologically active surface and contain hybrid organic-metallic features that appear to be growing on the plates, like fungi. The researchers are now developing solutions to stop further deterioration. One such tool is an encasement that contains the gas argon, which they have found will not degrade the images like oxygen will. The cases also keep out harmful moisture and contaminants, and each has a sensor that allows conservators to test for the presence of oxygen within the case.