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Researchers reveal hidden details in lost pictures from the 19th century

Researchers have found a way to detect details of centuries old decayed images. They used small X-rays to restore two lost images that could not otherwise be recreated.

The images were taken in 1850 and involved daguerreotypes, the earliest type of photography that used silver plates. One picture shows the woman's disposition while the other belongs to a man. However, both images were no longer visible due to damage and other injuries.

"It's a little scary because they are anonymous and still strike at the same time," said lead writer Madalena Kozachuk from Western University. "The picture is completely unexpected because you do not see it on the plate at all. It's hidden behind time, but then we see it and we can see so nice details: the eyes, the clothes people, the detailed embroidered patterns of the tablecloth."

Daguerreotype was the first commercial photographic process where high polished silver-plated copper plates were used . Substances had to pose without moving for a few minutes until the image pressed on the plate. It was later developed as a mercury vapor photo. Daguerreotyp images are, however, very sensitive and their plates easily melt if exposed to air.

For years, researchers have tried to learn more about chemical changes that damage daguerreotypes. They can identify many types of degradation and also understand how to restore broken images. With the help of fast-scanning micro-X-ray fluorescence, the researchers analyzed the plates and discovered traces of mercury on them. The new technology made it possible for researchers to restore the centuries images from these plates.

"Mercury is the most important element that contributes to the images captured in these photographs. Although the surface is tarnished, these image particles remain intact. Mercury we can get the image in detail." Co-author Tsun-Kong said.

Researchers believe that millions of daguerreotypes were created in the 19th century and many of them are not recognizable. With the latest technology, researchers can reveal details hidden under the tarn and contribute to the historical record.

"There are many interesting questions that at this stage of our knowledge can only be answered with a sophisticated scientific approach," said co-author McElhone. "A conservator's first step is to get a complete and complete understanding of what the material is and how it mounted on a microscopic and even nanoscale level. We want to find out how the chemicals are arranged on the surface and that understanding gives us access to theories about how decomposition occurs and how this decomposition may or may not be reversed. "

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