Published: January 3, 2012
Photography changed the course of history, offering Americans an entirely new view of themselves and their own country.
On view through May 4, an exhibition at Cornell University Library presents some of the country’s rarest, earliest and most important photographs on display for the world to see. “Dawn’s Early Light: The First 50 Years of American Photography” features photographs and related artifacts about the technological development of photography †from daguerreotypes to gelatin prints †in the Nineteenth Century, while also illuminating the turbulent historic currents that shaped the nation.
The exhibition opened October 20 in the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collection’s Hirshland Exhibition Gallery in Cornell’s Carl A. Kroch Library. The exhibited materials are highlights of more than 16,000 Nineteenth Century American photographs from the Beth and Stephan Loewentheil family photographic collection.
Highlights of the exhibition include multiple photographs by Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, including a large 1861 portrait of Abraham Lincoln, warmly inscribed to the wife of Lincoln’s oldest and closest friend; images documenting the Civil War, including a photograph of American Red Cross founder Clara Barton sitting with soldiers; a personal photograph album compiled by Mark Twain; and photographs documenting African American life, westward expansion and the rise of celebrity culture.
“Super-collectors like Stephan Loewentheil have enriched our library in extraordinary ways,” said Anne R. Kenney, the Carl A. Kroch University Librarian. “Without people who are dedicated to collecting and preserving historic artifacts, we would never be able to tell such a rich and complete story about our own history and the milieu from which Cornell was established.”
“This collection from the Loewentheil family stands as one of Cornell Library’s most significant acquisitions,” said Katherine Reagan, curator of rare books and manuscripts. “It provides rich visual documentation that will complement and extend the library’s major textual collections on Nineteenth Century America. Moving forward, the images in this collection will vastly increase our ability to understand our history.”
The exhibit is on the second floor of the Kroch Library on the Cornell University campus. For more information, http://library.cornell.edu or 607-255-3393.
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