For Madalena Kozachuk, it’s all about bringing history back into focus. And her attempts to do so garnered much attention earlier this year.
The Western PhD student is working to preserve 19th Century Canadian artifacts by analyzing the chemical elements of daguerreotypes, the first commercially available photographs, which date back to the early 1840s.
The daguerreotype is a singular image on a silvered copper plate which, in contrast to photographic paper, is not flexible. Though very fragile, the mirror-like surface of the plate allowed for accurate, detailed and sharp images.
Each image is delicate and unique, Kozachuk said, and each requires individual and specific needs when it comes to preservation.
To determine the chemical makeup of the daguerreotype, your everyday microscope isn’t going to do the trick. Enter the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, which houses Canada’s only synchrotron-based research facility. A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light that scientists can use to gather information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level.