Lecture Series: Inventing American Photography: Smithsonian Collections

Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 8-10; 10a.m.-Noon
Presidential Reception Suite, First Floor, Center
This event is free but registration is required, please RSVP: https://americanhistory.si.edu/rsvp/photography

The National Museum of American History presents Inventing American Photography: Smithsonian Collections,a lecture series held at the National Museum of American History, Nov. 8-10.  The series is a cross-disciplinary, pan-institutional effort to explore research and interpret the vast and extraordinary holdings of early American photography at the Smithsonian.    

The series will explore how American innovation and invention in the first decades of photography (1840-1860) fostered a thriving and productive community of photographers experimenting and competing at an international level. The advancement of the new medium contributed to an emerging visual culture and development of a distinctive American style of photography. 

The participating scholars, scientists and conservators will discuss the scientific study and analysis of the Smithsonian’s unique daguerreotype collections, share Smithsonian-based research on the collections and discuss photography’s contribution to an emerging visual culture.

The Smithsonian’s photography collections and archives comprise one of the world’s leading collections of the extant and earliest works by, and equipment used or manufactured by the influential men and women in the first decades of American photography.


  • Henry Fitz: Printer, Locksmith, Photographer, Telescope Maker
    Tuesday, Nov. 8; 10a.m.
    Steven Turner, Curator, Physical Sciences, National Museum of American History
  • An Early Daguerreotype
    Tuesday, Nov. 8; 11a.m.
    Hanako Murata, Thomas Walther Project, Assistant Conservator of Photographs, The Museum of Modern Art
  • John William Draper's Early Research in Radiation—1832-1845
    Wednesday, Nov. 9; 10a.m.
    Dr. Gregory A. Wickliff, Associate Professor of English, UNC Charlotte
  • One Thing New Under the Sun
    Wednesday, Nov. 9; 11a.m.
    Morse, Draper, and the Cross-Currents of Early American Photography, Dr. Sarah Kate Gillespie, Assistant Professor of Art History, York College, CUNY
  • The Daguerreian World in Color
    Thursday, Nov. 10; 10a.m.
    Kelly Wright, Adjunct Professor, Department of History, University of Cincinnati
  • European Views on Early American Photography
    Thursday, Nov. 10; 11a.m.
    François Brunet, Professor of Art and American Literature, University of Paris; member, L’Institute Universitaire