Artifact Walls - Cameras Before Digital

Leica camera, 1928

Artifact walls, consisting of 275 linear feet of glass-fronted cases lining the first and second floor center core, highlight the depth and breadth of the collections and convey that the Museum collects, studies and exhibits objects from our nation's rich and diverse history. The display is part of the special cases within the museum’s Artifact Walls that highlight anniversaries, new acquisitions to the collections and research findings.

About this case
This case, displaying 22 cameras, will focus on the technological progress made from the camera’s invention in 1839 to the advent of digital photography.  Featured items include digital, amateur and professional camera models that document the broadest range of the museum’s photo-history collections, from daguerreotype and view cameras to 20th-century military, aerial, digital and promotional models.

The case features:
The centerpiece of the showcase is the 1858 painting, “The Magic Box,” by Belgian artist Camille Venneman, which depicts an itinerant photographer taking of a photo a subject sitting outside of a cottage among village onlookers. The painting serves as an inviting reference point for the exhibit that includes an original Kodak camera, a Leica 35 mm camera, a daguerreotype camera and a camera used in World War I for aerial photography.  View the cameras online.

Add your camera to our Flickr group
The "Cameras Before Digital" Flickr group is dedicated to collecting your photographs, stories, and memories about cameras. Do you have a favorite camera in your collection? What type of camera is it? How did you acquire it? What (if ever) have you used it for? Why have you kept it? Share your photo and your story with the Smithsonian.