Although the Society does not aggressively acquire photographs, a representative collection of nineteenth-century photographs has emerged. Among the treasures of the department, for example, is the daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe. There are over one hundred daguerreotype portraits whose subjects have been identified, and at least that many of unidentified subjects. The Society's collection of cased photographs also includes tintypes (ferrotypes) and ambrotypes. Photographic portraits have been accepted into the collection, largely as gifts, for the past century and more. Photographic portraits of Worcester citizens forms an additional collection. There are also separate collections of portraits of actors, actresses, and Native Americans. About a dozen family photograph albums are housed in the department as well. There is also a collection of 853 photographs of seventeenth and eighteenth century structures in Massachusetts taken 1887-1945 by Harriette Merrifield Forbes. The Theodor Clemens Wohlbrück Photographs of Towns in Worcester County, c.1905-1915 contains over 1,000 views from 41 different Massachsuetts towns. Additional photographic views are interspersed throughout the collection of United States views. In January of 2011, American Antiquarian Society member Philip F. Gura placed on long-term loan to the Society a cabinet-sized albumen photograph of a young woman, possibly Emily Dickinson.
One of the special interests of the Society in recent years has been collecting books printed before 1877 that are illustrated with photographs. Such volumes have become collector's items, and it seemed worthwhile to begin to pay attention to this new field. There is access to these books in the catalog through the heading "Photographs" subdivided by the date of publication. Over 300 titles are listed in this classification including Benjamin Silliman's The World of Science, Art, and Industry Illustrated from Examples in the New York Exhibition (1854), Autograph Etchings by American Artists (1859), Gustave Brion's Illustrations to "Les Miserables" of Victor Hugo (1863), and books of views of Central Park (1864), Greenwood Cemetery (1868), Yosemite Park (1868) and the Rocky Mountains (1870). The number of titles in this classification increases both by new acquisitions and by the identification of books acquired in the past.
- Georgia B. Barnhill, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts Emerita