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Free exhibit on portrait photography at state Library and Archives

Staff Reports • Updated Jun 26, 2016 at 10:00 PM

As the saying goes, a picture can be worth a thousand words. 

That’s especially true in historical research, where old portrait photographs can tell us about the mannerisms, clothing, hairstyles and even cultural norms of people who lived decades ago. That’s one of the reasons why the Tennessee State Library & Archives has opened a new exhibit showcasing some of the thousands of photographic portraits it has collected on behalf of the state’s residents.

The free exhibit, titled “Tennesseans Through the Lens: Portrait Photography in Tennessee,” opened recently in the lobby of the Library & Archives building. The exhibit will be available for viewing Tuesdays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

The exhibit offers insights into the history of studio photography in Tennessee and how changes in that technology affected the lives of the state’s residents. Some of the images date back to the 1860s, when daguerreotype was the cutting edge technology in photography. Daguerreotype captured images on silver-plated copper surfaces.

“This is an exciting new exhibit for the Library & Archives,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “Many people think of the Library & Archives only as a place to study documents and maps, but we also have a stunning collection of more than one million photographs, many of them portraits of famous and not-so-famous Tennesseans. I encourage people to visit the Library & Archives to see the portraits we have available.”

The exhibit features photos from several of the Library & Archives’ collections, including the Calvert Brothers Studio Glass Plate Negatives, the Library Photograph Collection, Looking Back at Tennessee, the Tennessee Historical Society Picture Collection, the Carte de Visite Collection and the Cabinet Card Collection.

The Library & Archives building is at 403 Seventh Avenue N., just west of the Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville. A limited amount of free parking is available around the building.

The exhibit will remain on display until August.

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