Civil War Photography: New Technologies and New Uses, a Teacher Primary Source Set from the Library of Congress

An ivorytype photograph from the Library's new Civil War photography primary source set

An ivorytype photograph from the Library’s new Civil War photography primary source set

Can you imagine a photograph made of metal? A picture book made with egg whites? A wood-and-glass device that lets you see 3-D images? In the 1850s and 1860s, these were all cutting-edge photographic technologies.

The Civil War era was a time of breathtaking photographic innovation. The Library’s newest primary source set, “Civil War Photography: New Technologies and New Uses,” immerses students in the new methods and formats that emerged in the decades around the war. Ambrotypes, tintypes, ivorytypes, cartes de visite, stereographs and bring viewers face to face with battlefields, the aftermath of combat, and the everyday men and boys who fought in the war. They also give students a glimpse into the changing visual culture of the time.

Viewing a stereograph

Viewing a stereograph

The set includes a background essay that describes each of the photographic technologies and formats included in the set, along with teaching ideas that help students explore the role photographs played in people’s understanding of the war, as well as the ways in which photography has and has not changed in the decades since.

“Civil War Photography: New Technologies and New Uses,” was developed by Sam Klotz, the Library’s 2014 Liljenquist Family Fellow. To learn more about the Liljenquist family and the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, read this essay.

Which of these photographs do you believe will raise the most interesting questions for your students?

 

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