Processes and Techniques

Harvard’s diverse collections of salt prints contribute to our understanding of the technological developments in this seminal photographic technique. Collectively, the holdings reveal how the medium developed from an experimental method to an established process. The collections allow us to trace the technical arc from impressionist photogenic drawings by William Henry Fox Talbot in the 1830s to remarkably detailed salted paper prints by photographers using the technique into the mid 1860s.

The Salt Print Initiative facilitated the discovery of approximately 11,855 salt prints and more than 300 paper negatives in repositories throughout the University, a number far greater than anticipated. The project team entered information about salt print holdings at each repository into a customized Microsoft Access database. Through multiple publications and public databases, this information has been made widely available. This presentation by Elena Bulat discusses how that data was gathered and explores some of the conclusions and areas for further research gleaned from that data. Data gathered during the survey will be critical in informing decisions concerning the long-term preservation of these early photographs.