Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D. Professor and Chair

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

Museum Studies, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Noelle Wiedemer

First Reader

Noelle Wiedemer

Second Reader

Dr. Cynthia Conides


Photography is an established art form that combines the knowledge of chemistry, light, and optics to render an image. Initially, the image is captured on a flat surface coated with emulsion and combined with an exposure to sunlight or another illuminating source. Today, images are captured by digital methods. Artistically, the photograph may reveal sceneries of landscapes, of treasured belongings and of people, as they are seen to the human eye. Photographic portraiture is the oldest style of photography next to landscape imagery, due to commercial photographers setting up studios and experimenting with photography’s many cameras, plates, and emulsions. In the late nineteenth century, the dry gelatin glass plate negative emerged to replace its predecessors, and created a booming business in photographic material manufacturers. Today, museums, archives and libraries in the United States are using current technologies and knowledge of the dry gelatin glass plate negative to preserve them for long-term accessibility and research use. Of the many research uses, genealogists use these plates to identify ancestors and build upon a family history. This thesis will provide a brief history of photography, an insight into photographic portraiture, and steps to preserve dry gelatin glass plate negatives. It will also involve a background of genealogical research with the use of photographs. Lastly, this paper will contain a case study conducted by the author of the preservation and genealogical research of the Howard D. Beach Studio Photography Collection of Glass Plate Negatives, as provided by The Buffalo History Museum in Buffalo, New York.