A collection of antique photographs that includes portraits of historical figures such as George and Martha Washington as well as photos from the Civil War are on display at the Post Art Library in the Joplin Public Library.
The photographs are from the history collections of local resident Allen Shirley. They include ambrotype, which are photographs made on glass; CdV, which stands for carte de visites, thin paper photographs mounted on thicker paper or cardboard, a process patented by a French photographer; and tintypes, composed of positive images transferred onto a thin sheet of metal.
"This exhibit is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of photography," said Jill Sullivan, director of the Post Art Library. "With modern technology, it’s easy to forget how laborious the process of photography once was. Hopefully people will walk away from this display with that in mind and perhaps a renewed interest in learning about historic photographic processes. Not to mention the rich history of those photographed."
Shirley said the collection consists of about 50 photographs. In addition to historical subjects such as Abraham and Mary Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull, the collection includes the Hatfields and McCoys, and famous outlaws such as Billy the Kid. There also are old photographs of people who lived in Joplin.
"It's a chance for people to come see historic people they have read about," Shirley said.
The ambrotypes are similar to those created by one of the early U.S. photographers, Mathew Brady, who used the ambrotype method of photography. He was a famous Civil War photographer.
"At the end of the Civil War, no one wanted anything to do with the war, so a lot of Brady's photographs were donated to greenhouses (to be used as window panes) and were destroyed by the light and just evaporated into nothing," Shirley said. "But many of the glass panels do exist and can be seen in museums."
Some of Shirley's photographs are displayed in decorative folding frames that are valuable collectibles, Shirley said.
He has written descriptions for each of the photographs.