The Division is strong in its holdings of nineteenth century photography, particularly documentation of African American life as well as the Caribbean and South America. The Division's collections include examples of early photographic formats such as stereographs, daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, cartes-de-visite, cabinet photographs, and others. Photographic documentation of the Caribbean and South America in the Division's collections often takes the form of photograph albums.
Additionally, all of the Division's print collections date from the nineteenth century.
Due to the fragility and conservation needs of many such collections, in-person access may require approval of the Division's Curator. Digital surrogates of an increasing number of these materials are available through NYPL Digital Collections.
Please feel free to contact us if you are conducing research relating to the nineteenth century United States, the Caribbean, or South America, as well as the history of photography, or other subject areas relating to early photographic materials. We cannot guarantee access to materials in all cases, and final determinations for access are made by the Division curator in consultation with the researcher.
A weekly series from NYPL's Center for Research in the Humanities, Doc Chat pairs an NYPL curator or specialist and a scholar to discuss evocative digitized items from the Library's collections. In Episode Fifty-Two, Dalila Scruggs, Curator of the Schomburg Center's Photographs and Prints Division, spoke with literary scholar Travis M. Foster about a daguerreotype of two unidentified white men by African American photographer, abolitionist, and businessman Augustus Washington. Scruggs and Foster discussed Washington's studio practice and examined the gender dynamics behind the tender intimacy exhibited by the men in this 150-year-old photograph.