• "Two Leaves" by William Henry Fox Talbot, 1839

    "Two Leaves" by William Henry Fox Talbot, 1839

    photogenic drawing from Houghton Library, Harvard University

  • Mrs. James Bennet, artist unknown, 1840s

    "Mrs. James Bennet" by an unknown artist, 1840s

    salted paper print from the Harvard Fine Arts Library

  • "Benjamin D. Greene," by Seaver and Kingman, 1861?

    "Benjamin D. Greene" by Seaver and Kingman, 1861?

    fromt the Harvard Herbarium Library, Harvard University Herbaria

  • "Council of war held at Lord Raglan's headquarters the morning of the successful attack on the Mamelon" by Roger Fenton, 1855

    "Council of war held at Lord Raglan's headquarters the morning of the successful attack on the Mamelon" by Roger Fenton, 1855

    salted paper print from Houghton Library, Harvard University

  • "Gore Hall" by Josiah Parsons Cooke, 1844

    "Gore Hall" by Josiah Parsons Cooke, 1844

    paper negative (calotype process) from Houghton Library, Harvard University

  • "Theodore Lyman," John Adams Whipple, salted paper print, 1855, Harvard University Archives

 

Salt prints represent the first negative-to-positive photographic technique. Introduced by Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839, it is the process from which most nineteenth- and twentieth-century photographic formats were derived. Collections of salt prints found in libraries, archives, and museums at Harvard University include some of the earliest photographic images created, and they represent a seminal chapter in the history of photography. Together, these holdings reveal technological developments in the medium and pioneering uses of photography across the sciences and humanities.

 

Salt Print Initiative at Harvard

The Weissman Preservation Center (WPC) has undertaken a university-wide project to preserve and enhance access to salt prints at Harvard. Salt prints represent the result of the first negative-to-positive photographic technique, introduced by Englishman William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839. The project focuses on photogenic drawings, paper negatives, and salted paper prints (positive prints created from paper or glass-plate negatives) found throughout Harvard’s libraries, archives, and museums. The term salt print is broadly used to represent all of these processes.

Through a series of initiatives, the WPC seeks to enhance our understanding of these rare photographs and to ensure their long-term preservation. Programs have included a condition survey of salt prints found in twelve Harvard repositories; workshops on the history and identification of the medium; guidelines for housing, storage, and exhibition; treatment of selected images; material analyses; cataloging and digitization of selected collections; publications; exhibitions; and a symposium.

The project has provided a unique opportunity for a fruitful exchange among Harvard conservators, librarians, collection managers, curators, scholars, faculty, students, and interns. This cross-disciplinary exchange provides invaluable insights into pioneering uses of the medium and opens exciting avenues for the creative use of Harvard’s photographic resources in object-based learning in the sciences and humanities.

Participating Harvard Repositories

Andover-Harvard Theological Library
Ernst Mayr Library of the Museum of Comparative Zoology
Gray Herbarium Library, Harvard Herbaria
Harvard Art Museums
Harvard
Fine Arts Library, Special Collections
Harvard Law School Library
Harvard Map Collection
Harvard University Archives
Houghton Library: Harvard Theatre Collection
Houghton Library: Modern Books and Manuscripts
Houghton Library: Printing and Graphic Arts
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology