Photography itself has produced a rich cultural and artistic legacy. In its very early roots, image making was a craft done by hand. Emerging in the early 19th century, the medium has produced a wide range of photographic processes. Many processes that were once prevalent have now vanished. The techniques and formulas of these processes can be directly traced within the Penumbra Foundation collection.  

The collection has an impact on the study of photography as an art form. Across the arts, students are taught the history of the genre to contextualize contemporary practices and the evolution of the field. Within photography, however, education on historical techniques and processes is limited. The pace of innovation within the field of photography has quickly distanced itself from early forms. By providing access to this information, researchers and students of the photographic art form can locate the work within a specific place and time. Study can provide insight on what materials were available and used to make a specific type of print. 

These materials can also be used to advance the understanding of conservation and archival studies. With information from our collection, archivists and conservators can more readily understand the chemical basis and physical make up of early photography.  

In addition, marginalia and provenance contained in these materials make them particularly rare. We are actively preserving and documenting this information to make it easily accessible through the digital files.  

Penumbra Foundation appreciates donations of relevant materials to become part of the Library’s permanent collection.