The collection represents an important resource in early photography. The ambrotype made use of the wet plate colloidion process on glass to create images that were cheaper than -- and in some ways more attractive than -- the daguerrotype. The tintype or ferrotype, which came into use at about the same time as the ambrotype -- in the 1850s -- was made by creating a direct positive images on treated iron metal.
As an historical archive, the Liljenquist family collection shows Civil War garb, weapons, musical instruments and family portraits.
The Library of Congress is adding new digital images from the archive each week to its website. The whole collection will go on display in April 2011 to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.