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At its most recent meeting, the Daguerreian Society Board locked in the when and where of the 2023 Symposium and Photo Fair. The event will be held from Thursday, September 28 through Sunday, October 1. The hotel will be the landmark Boston Park Plaza in Back Bay, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston will be the hosting institution. Stay tuned for further details!

After two years of successful virtual symposiums, more than 100 members gathered in Chicago on October 27-30 to share their passion for early photography at the 34th annual Symposium & Photo Fair. The 2022 event was held at the historic Palmer House Hilton hotel on East Monroe Street, a downtown landmark of over 140 years. The hotel’s famed French-inspired lobby, with its oversized gold candelabras and frescoed ceiling murals, provided a fitting backdrop for conversation about history and artistic achievement.


The event kicked off on Thursday morning with behind-the-scenes tours at three of Chicago’s world-class cultural institutions: The Art Institute of Chicago, the Newberry Library, and the Chicago History Museum. Each has important 19th-century photography collections.

The Art Institute tour featured many spectacular holdings including the famed Samuel J. Miller daguerreotype of Frederick Douglass and items from the recently acquired W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg Collection of 19th-Century American Photography. Photo curator and Society member Liz Siegel hosted the visit.

The Newberry Library tours gave attendees a rare up-close look at an incredible collection of Thomas Easterly daguerreotypes and other special 19th-century images.

And the Chicago History Museum tours showed an impressive assortment of cased images and included a discussion of the museum’s preservation techniques. Among the images: a whole-plate daguerreotype of six native Americans from the Chippewa (Ojibwa) tribe.

River cruise

Odyssey Chicago Cocktail Cruise

Later that day, everyone came together for a two-hour afternoon cruise along the Chicago River. With cocktails and heavy hors-d’oeuvres flowing, members enjoyed catching up and seeing up-close views of the city’s iconic architecture, explained by a narrator. For some longtime members, it reminded them of the Society’s 25th anniversary cruise down the Seine in Paris.

For those interested, the day concluded with the first of two days of nighttime “room hopping,” where certain dealers invited attendees to preview what they had brought and engage in early buying, selling, and trading.


On Friday, a fascinating slate of expert talks took up much of the morning and afternoon. Attendees gained a deeper knowledge and appreciation of early photographic pioneer and photographic history through the series of expert talks and interactive Q&A on Friday. Below is a summary of the speakers and their topics:

Liz Siegel, Curator of Photography at the Art Institute, spoke about the prolific but little-known Art Institute curator Hugh Edwards. She shed new light on the ways in which 19th-century photography entered museums years ago, including an untold story on how the Art Institute’s collection evolved over time.

Former Nelson-Atkins Museum Photo Curator and scholar Keith Davis focused on the work of George N. Barnard, whose photographic career began in the Daguerreian era and continued through the Civil War and beyond. His presentation surveyed the full scope of Barnard’s career to shed light on Barnard’s creative/expressive ideas and his personal character.

Martin Last shared the remarkable story of his once-in-a-lifetime flea market find in Zurich that unearthed a rare and historic set of four daguerreotypes of the city, all showing structures designed by Swiss architect G. A. Wegmann. He discussed his research on these photographs. Conservator Sandra Petrillo explained the complexities of conserving the plates.

Historian and photographer David R. Hanlon spoke about two obscure but nonetheless seminal early American photographers, Leavitt Hunt and Nathan Flint Baker. Although neither was a professional, Hunt and Baker were early photographic pioneers. Hanlon examined the historical and cultural significance of the work of these two formative photographers.

David Holcomb took us decade by decade through the depiction of athletes and the sporting life in 19th-century photography, sharing a remarkable set of images. He discussed how the consistent innovation in chemistry and materials allowed for an increasingly detailed capture of the subject, from the static portraits to the ultimate goal of freezing motion.

Grant Romer, photographic historian, scholar, daguerreotypist, conservator, and a founding member of the Society, spoke on Daguerre’s early explorations in photography before his partnership with Niépce. Various historians have belittled Daguerre’s achievements before joining with Niépce, stating that he brought virtually nothing to it besides what he claimed to be an improved Camera Obscura. Romer convincingly sought to set the record straight.

Liliana Shortridge, a high school student from Minnesota, described how she got into collecting and shared some of her images in a member showcase.

Photo Fair

Saturday morning saw the start of one of every Symposium’s highlights: the antique Photo Fair. Open to the public, the full-day trade fair attracted not only conference attendees but also at least 20 Chicago-area residents who had learned of it through a TV segment on the local PBS affiliate, WTTW, on Friday evening. More than 30 dealers from around the world participated, selling an incredible array of quality 19th-century photographs, ephemera, books, modern daguerreotypes, and even some photographic equipment.

Banquet and Auction

The conference culminated Saturday evening with another cocktail reception, a banquet dinner, and silent and live auctions. Board member Wes Cowan expertly ran the live auction, as in past years. Members and non-members who were not able to attend in person participated remotely in the live auction.

The Dagguerreian Society

The Daguerreian Society
PO Box #306
Cecil, PA 15321-0306
Phone: 412-221-0306
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