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The most renowned portion of the Museum’s photographic holdings is the collection of more than 310 “cased image” photographs of Confederate soldiers and Southern civilians, white and black. Often mistakenly called by the generic name “daguerreotypes,” cased images can denote daguerreotypes, ambrotypes or tintypes, (see 19th-Century Photographs); they in common being kept in velvet-lined protective cases. The collection features portraits of Confederate civilian leaders such as President Jefferson Davis and military leaders, including rare prewar portraits of Gen. Ambrose P. Hill and Patrick R. Cleburne, and the postmortem portrait of Gen. Turner Ashby. More than a third of the cased images are of Confederate soldiers, representing the largest known assemblage of identified uniformed Confederate soldier images in existence. The images donated to the Museum by the family of President Jefferson Davis also include Davis’s children and several of the family’s free black servants. Perhaps the most poignant images are those of women and children many of them unknown that were found among the effects of dead soldiers.
In contrast, the Museum also has 2,500 cartes-de-visite (CDVs) or visiting cards. Mass produced and inexpensive, CDVs were easily obtained collectibles in wartime America. The favorite subjects were famous politicians, generals and international celebrities. Several CDV albums that Confederate “first lady” Varina Howell Davis donated to the Museum contain 350 images of her famous American contemporaries and European royalty. CDVs copied from the handful of original (from life) images taken of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson were among the most popular in the wartime and postwar South and among the most common in the Museum’s collection.
A number of images in the collection are postwar landscapes, cityscapes, and buildings significant to Confederate and Civil War history. These dramatic photographs range from panoramas of the Tennessee River viewed from Lookout Mountain to images of the empty village lanes of Appomattox and the burned district of Richmond. Although known for its wartime images, the Museum has an unparalleled collection of photographs documenting the postwar Confederate memorial period. These include individual and group portraits of Confederate veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, as well as monuments and monument dedications throughout the South.
The Museum has a large collection of negatives and prints made by former Library of Congress curator and photographic historian Hirst Milhollen from the most famous wartime photographs now in the National Archives and Library of Congress, and copies of images from the Brady-Handy Collection housed at the Library of Congress.
Researchers may make an appointment to view Photographic Collections in advance. Appointments are $12.00 for non-members, $6.00 for students (with ID), and free for Museum members. This fee includes admission to the Museum’s exhibits (but not a tour of the White House of the Confederacy). All appointments must be scheduled in advance—preferably two weeks—by emailing or writing the Archives (see address below). No calls please.
Research may be performed by our staff via correspondence at a rate of $10.00 for the first hour (waived for members) and then $40.00 for every hour after for detailed requests requiring more time. Please submit your inquiry in writing, being sure to include your mailing address and telephone number. Fees must be prepaid before research results are mailed.
Regular mail contact: The Museum of the Confederacy, attn: Photographic Collection, 1201 E. Clay Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219
To order photographic images see RIGHTS AND REPRODUCTIONS