Library: Library Collections
The photographic archives at the Massachusetts Historical Society consist of approximately 120,000 photographs. Modern portraits of individuals and family groups, initially acquired with manuscript donations, dominate the collection. Its full breadth, however, spans the history of photography and includes more than 550 daguerreotypes, 100 tintypes, 200 ambrotypes, 4,000 cartes-de-visite, 200 cabinet cards, and 5,000 glass plate negatives, as well as large format prints and thousands of images produced through modern photographic processes.
Approximately 50,000 photographs in 380 separate collections are described at the collection level in 45 online finding aids and in ABIGAIL. All 800 individual cased images in the daguerreotype and ambrotype collections are cataloged in ABIGAIL. Please contact the reference librarian if you do not find a specific photographic item in the online catalog.
Information on ordering reproductions of photographs is available on the Rights and Reproductions web page.
Highlights from the Collection
The Society holds many striking examples of daguerreotype photograph photography, including portraits of Annie Adams Fields, ca. 1853, and Daniel Webster, 1851, both taken by Southworth and Hawes of Boston. The daguerreotypes also include views, such as Joslin Gilman's Faneuil Hall, Boston, Mass. (1840).
There are also more than 2,000 images that document people, places, and events of the Civil War, with an emphasis on Massachusetts regiments and personnel. Among the most notable are tintypes of members of the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first African-American regiment raised in the North. You may view a selection of these tintypes here:
Online Photography Exhibitions