An excerpt from the Burns Archive Website describes Dr. Burns and his collection's origin below:
In 1975, Dr. Stanley B. Burns, an eye surgeon and vision specialist practicing in New York City, became interested in daguerreotypes and other early photographs. By 1978, Dr. Burns had acquired, through aggressive buying and connoisseurship, one of America's most important collections of early photography.In 1988, the Burns Archive moved into its permanent headquarters, a New York townhouse built in 1890, at 140 East 38th Street.
My own collection was in response to these. It is important to consider that all of these images are virtually one-of-a-kind. Literally so for the daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes. Most likely so for cartes-des-visite and cabinet cards because of the small chance of duplicates surviving so long. Even other prints were likely in the personal collections of the immediate family, so only rarely do I come across more than one copy. So, like the Sleeping Beauties books, here are more examples from:
The Post-Mortem Portrait Archive:
From my postmortem collection, these examples are among my favorites. The first is a 1860-65 tintype in a daguerreotype case in which the face was slightly hand-tinted. An amazing photo, equally as good as any in the Burns Archive.
This one had written on the back: "Lester L. Shire, 3 mos. 5 dys".
These two little cartes-des-visite from the 1870's(?) are also amazing in their sensitivity and elegance.
The little girl in the chair seems to be watching the camera, but the tell-tale signs of death make it clear that she is not seeing anything. One of the saddest revelations from looking at these images is the reality of the death of these children. One sometimes forgets this when we are distracted by the beauty of the work.