The value of providing online access to collection material has never been more apparent than during this challenging time. Opportunities for remote learning and vicarious experience are in high demand, and while we are doubling down on our efforts to digitize more materials all the time, we also want to take the opportunity to highlight – and perhaps to remind you of — some materials that have been accessible to online researchers for years. Today we would like to feature the Tissandier Collection, which includes images related to the history of human experimentation with flight, particularly in Europe from the late eighteenth through the nineteenth century.
Some images from the Tissandier Collection show how the natural world provided inspiration for some inventors.
Others highlight dramatic moments in the development of aviation technology. As the scenes shown in the collecting cards below make clear, some moments were triumphant, such as the one at top left depicting the successful ascent of Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Jean-Baptiste Biot in a hot air balloon, which led to new discoveries about the properties of gases at higher altitudes. Other less successful events shown in the scenes below may make some viewers grateful to have two feet on the ground.
The development of the air balloon is a particular strength of the Tissandier Collection, which includes not only technical diagrams related to balloon flight, but also portraits of inventors involved in the development of the technology and many images designed to make balloon flight look attractive. In some cases, balloon ascents provided a spectacle that drew crowds, as evident in the images below.
Whether you are a teacher looking for an opportunity to develop a lesson plan, an aviation enthusiast, or simply curious to explore the early visual history of this fascinating technology, the digitized images from the Tissandier Collection may be just what you need to get you through an afternoon.
- Explore the background information on the Tissandier Collection in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog. Browse the digitized portion of the collection—more than 400 images
- Read another Picture This post discussing balloon flight over the centuries.
- Interested particularly in the history of the airplane? See the digitized Wright Brothers Negatives, most made by Orville and Wilbur Wright themselves.