|Charles Dagneau opening a drawer of relics for myself and Mary Williamson|
|Fragment of the wheel of HMS Erebus|
We then went to the room of metal objects, which I'd been particularly curious to see. Among the stars there was the still-unidentified "scientific instrument," which is visible in the photo at top -- it was far smaller than I'd pictured it, and more delicate; clearly it had been made with care and precision, but for what purpose we don't yet know.
|The heavy metal object|
After our tour, I had to head back home to Rhode Island -- I'd driven to Ottawa -- and didn't get back until quite late. The next day, looking at the image of that metal object, I decided I'd send it to Bill Schultz, a friend and collector whose article on the Franklin Daguerreotypes is a standard reference in the field. He was quite excited, and agreed with my inference; he in turn sent the photos to Mike Robinson, the president of the Daguerreian Society and one of the world's top experts on the historical process.
So now we have something we didn't have before: clear evidence that indeed such an apparatus was aboard HMS "Erebus," and that, assuming it was used as intended, Daguerreotypes were almost certainly made during the expedition. It's only one small step to add to the hope that someday such plates may be recovered; if they are, they'll be the earliest photographs ever taken in the Arctic!
In conclusion, I'd like to extend our warm and collective thanks to Jonathan Moore, Charles Dagneau, Cindy Lee Scott, and everyone else we met for their tremendous generosity in giving us a glimpse of the less-visible -- but extraordinarily important -- work they do in these labs.