Search graduate:

Relika Kala

  • Faculty of Art and Culture
  • Cultural Heritage and Conservation
  • BA
  • Ambrotypes in Estonian Museums. Conservation of Ambrotype in European Housing
  • Tutor: Grete Ots (MA), Merilis Roosalu (MA)

Ambrotypes are a slightly underexposed negative image on a glass, which appears positive when placed against a dark background.

An integral part of ambrotypes is their housing, which protects the glass substrate and the image on it. It also helps to make the photo meet the aesthetic expectations of the 19th century. The two most common formats were North American and European, which were taken from earlier daguerreotypes.

  • The 1860s are considered to be the glory days of ambrotypes in Estonia, which is a relatively late period compared to the rest of Europe.
  • Although ambrotypes were widespread from 1850 to 1870, only 18 ambrotypes were identified from the collections of Estonian museums during the documentation referred to in the bachelor’s thesis.
  • 15 ambrotypes in Estonian museums have a European housing, three have no housing at all.
  • Of the ambrotypes found in Estonian museum collections, the name of the photographer is known in only five cases.

Ambrotype before conservation. Photo: Conservation and Digitisation Centre Kanut
Ambrotype after conservation. Photo: Conservation and Digitisation Centre Kanut


Four teachers from Kuressaare have been recorded on the ambrotype to be conserved. The photo was probably taken between 1854 and 1858, because at that time at least three of the four men in the photo were in Saaremaa at the same time. The author is unknown. The ambrotype is placed in a European housing and is very small in size: 6.9 cm x 7.9 cm x 0.3 cm.

Conservation works performed:

  1. opening the housing layers
  2. removing the paper seal from the cover glass
  3. removing mold from photo
  4. building an internal protective housing
  5. reclosing the housing layers
Ambrotype layers after conservation.