Tiny Mysteries: Decoding the Wagner’s 19th-Century Microphotographs

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Join us for an illustrated Weeknights at the Wagner lecture about a project melding photographic innovation, high-tech lab equipment, creative arts, and historical investigation.

Sometime around 1850, photographer Frederick Langenheim traveled from Philadelphia to New York and made two photographs. He later reduced those images to the size of a pin-head and preserved them on microscopic slides, which are now part of the Wagner’s historic collections.  Too small to decipher with the naked eye, the contents of the Wagner’s two microphotographs were unknown until last year. Artists Byron Wolfe and Daniel Seth Kraus teamed up to solve the mystery of these images. Their research took them through hi-tech labs, historical archives, and the streets of New York.

They discovered that the slides contained two of the earliest photographic images of Manhattan and Staten Island. At “Tiny Mysteries: Decoding the Wagner’s 19th-Century Microphotographs,” Wolfe and Kraus will share the images, their turbulent historical context, and the questions and creative work they have inspired. This research was supported through a 2017 Temple-Wagner Humanities & Arts Research Fellowship.

The Wagner Free Institute of Science exhibition hall will be open past its usual 4 p.m. closing time until the lecture begins at 6 p.m.

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