Two daguerreotypes travel to Oxford.

By Logan Zachary.  March 12, 2023.

{ Two Franklin Expedition daguerreotypes in Oxford. }   

Two of the surviving twelve daguerreotype portraits of the Franklin Expedition have left their home in Cambridge and travelled to Oxford.  The Scott Polar Research Institute has loaned these portraits to the exhibition A New Power: Photography in Britain 1800–1850, now on at the Bodleian Library.  The exhibition runs from February 1st to May 7th, 2023.

{ Daguerreotype of Sir John Franklin at A New Power. }   

The two portraits are of Sir John Franklin and Graham Gore, the Captain and 1st Lieutenant of HMS Erebus respectively.  These portraits were taken in 1845 on board HMS Erebus near London, just before the expedition sailed into the Northwest Passage and disappeared.

The loan to Oxford is extraordinary for a number of reasons.  In their own museum, SPRI only keeps copies of the daguerreotypes on display.  As well, Death In The Ice (the travelling Franklin relics exhibition, 2017–19) did not feature any of the original daguerreotypes.  The best versions to be found online are those created from later copies, offered by Derbyshire’s Record Office and Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum.  I am unaware of any previous time that the original dags have left Cambridge, making this a rare opportunity for the general public to see the originals held by SPRI.

A New Power: Photography in Britain 1800–1850 is being held in the Weston Library’s ST Lee Gallery.  The exhibition is curated by Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of the History of Art at the University of Oxford.  Admission is free.  There is a public area to hang a coat, but no bag lockers.  There is a café with good coffee and a bite to eat inside the library, just before the gallery.

My thanks to Karin Lach and Sam Pope for advice on visiting the exhibition.

Link to exhibition page:


{ A sign for A New Power in Oxford. }   

{ Entrance to A New Power. }   

{ The Franklin section at A New Power. }   

{ The Illustrated London News’ portrait sketches, 13 Sept 1851. }   

{ The two daguerreotypes. }   

{ The two daguerreotypes. }   

{ Sir John Franklin. }   

{ Lieutenant Graham Gore. }   

{ Sir John Franklin. }   

{ Lieutenant Graham Gore. }   

{ Portrait of a man operating a daguerreotype camera, circa 1845. }   
{ Artist unknown, oil on canvas in wood frame. }   

All photographs by author.  Nota bene that these photographs are not faithful to the original daguerreotypes; they introduce novel angles, lighting, coloring, and reflections.  Therefore these images are necessarily and only the appearance of the Franklin Expedition daguerreotypes at Oxford’s A New Power in the year 2023.  As well, almost all the images have been edited, in particular to match each other for color and light.  For the best reproductions of the daguerreotypes freely available online (as of this writing), see the National Maritime Museum’s mid-resolution versions (some of which are seen elsewhere on this website).

The original Franklin Expedition daguerreotypes from the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, are catalogued as N:589/1 (Franklin) and N:589/11 (Gore).

Perhaps not coincidentally, these two daguerreotypes at Oxford are the same two Franklin Expedition daguerreotypes from SPRI that appeared in excellent resolution a decade ago inside Huw Lewis-Jones’ portraits book, Face to Face: Polar Portraits (Scott Polar Research Institute, 2008).

{ Daguerreotype of Sir John Franklin. }   

The End.
 – L.Z.  March 12th, 2023.