Featured Resource: 19th Century Collections Online

We are all casual users of photographic technology these days, thanks to our smart phones. A quick snap or vid and then upload to Instagram or TikTok, all good. Do you want to see what it used to take to make a photograph?

Photo of a leaf
[Photogenic drawing of a tri-lobed leaf.]; A cameraless photogenic drawing of a single tri-lobed leaf. Photogenic Drawing (Contact Negative). 227 mm x 183 mm. Photographer: Talbot, William Henry Fox. Page 44 of “Talbot Collection: Album of prints dating from 1839 to 1841.” Photographs from the Talbot Collection at the British Library, Primary Source Media, 1839-1841. Nineteenth Century Collections Online, Accessed 30 Jan. 2020.
In the primary source database by Gale, Nineteenth Century Collections Online [MyLMU Login], there is an entire archive on the invention and advances made in photography, called “Photography: The World through the Lens.” In that archive is included the work of William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented the first photographic process capable of producing negative images on paper. The image here (to the right) is a photogenic drawing (no camera was used) by Talbot, made between 1839 and 1841. The database includes an album from his collection, as well as other rare photos showing off how quickly photographic technology advanced. Curious about how photogenic drawings are made? Read about the process in Encyclopedia Brittanica [MyLMU login] 

There is a lot to explore in this database. The archive titles include: British Politics and Society; British Theatre, Music, Literature, High & Low Culture; Children’s Literature and Childhood; Corvey Collection of European Literature, 1790-1840; Mapping the World; Asia and the West: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange; Europe and Africa: Commerce, Christianity, Civilization, and Conquest; Photography: The World through the Lens; Religion, Society, Spirituality, and Reform; Science, Technology, and Medicine: 1780-1925; and Women: Transnational Networks.

Topic mapping image for "Caroline Herschel"To get started in this database we suggest using the general search box at the top of the page. As you type in the search box, the database will show you terms that are found in the resource, which may help you get to content faster. If you’re in a browsing mood, scroll to the bottom of the main page and try out the Topic Finder. The Topic Finder “takes the titles, subjects, and approximately the first 100 words from a subset of your top results and feeds them into an algorithm. Keywords shown in the graphics are those found most often in the text with your search term.” Here (left) is an example of the results when I typed in Caroline Herschel (the world’s first professional woman astronomer) into the search box. From there, if I click on the “women” bubble, the result is thirty-nine documents that mention her name. The first result is actually the “Memoir and Correspondence of Caroline Herschel” [MyLMU login]. 

Hopefully, that is enough to get you started with this remarkable resource. If you need help accessing or navigating Nineteenth Century Collections Online, please stop by our Information Desk on level 1 of the library or contact us online.