Black portrait photograph collection

Biographical and Historical Notes

The Black portrait photograph collection consists of photographs acquired from various sources by the University of Delaware Library. There is little and sometimes no information about the provenance of these photographs or the individuals depicted in them.

In spring 2021, students at the University of Delaware in the course AFRA 647: Curating Hidden Collections and the Black Archive studied the photographs and created metadata for the digital collection. This was a continuation of work done with the Baltimore Collection by the fall 2017 Curating Hidden Collections class. The work of both the fall 2017 seminar class and the spring 2021 seminar class is documented at the following link:

Scope and Contents

The Black portrait photograph collection contains portrait photographs of individuals and groups, who are likely African American or part of the Black diaspora. The photographers, sitters, and settings of these photographs have yet to be identified, unless otherwise noted. Dates are derived from the method of photography and aspects of the dress of the sitters.

The collection contains nine tintypes (collodion image on japanned iron) and two crayon enlargements. The tintypes have incurred damage over time, including creasing, rusting, denting, and scratches.

Though the identity of the sitters is unknown, the attire and accessories of many of them suggest their belonging to an educated middle class. Other sitters appear to be wearing the attire of their professional occupations. The use of props such as backdrops, rugs, and posing chairs signal that the photographs were likely created in photography studios.