Arts, Dining & Entertainment, Events & Activities

Henry Sheldon Museum’s virtual lecture ‘Picturing Difference: Photography, Democracy, and Race in the 19th Century’

Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.— VIRTUAL — The Henry Sheldon Museum presents a lecture by historian Michelle Smiley via Zoom. This is the fourth talk in the “Elephant in the Room: Exploring the Future of Museums” series convened by the Stewart-Swift Research Center.

Courtesy Henry Sheldon Museum
Portrait of an unidentified African American woman by Samuel Broadbent, ca. 1850.

In this talk, Dr. Smiley will discuss American daguerreotype portraiture, its uses as both as a scientific instrument and as a means of picturing loved ones, as well as the photographic portrait as a medium of democratic participation, particularly for African American, Asian, and women subjects. She will explore how 19th-century photographic portrait studios shaped conceptions of “self” and “other” and the sometimes unlikely places where we may uncover these visual histories in museums and archival collections.

Michelle Smiley is a historian of 19th-century photography and American science. Her research examines the history of the daguerreotype in the antebellum United States, and how the objects and processes of photography came to be viewed as democratic media.

This talk, funded by Vermont Humanities, is free and open to all. Additional support for this talk is provided by Dinse. To learn more about the “Elephant in the Room” series and to register for the talk, visit

The Henry Sheldon Museum offers a diverse, in-depth look at the history and art of the mid-Lake Champlain region of Vermont. The museum is located at One Park Street in downtown Middlebury across from the Ilsley Library.  The museum and research center are closed for the winter effective Dec. 30, 2021 and will reopen in May 2022.

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