Sarah Weatherwax, a photography curator at the Library Company of Philadelphia, writes about how early photography was received in 1839 Philadelphia. Her piece appears in the blog "O Say Can You See?" http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog of the National Museum of American History, part of the Smithsonian Museums.
Sarah Weatherwax,. “A Philadelphia Snapshot From When Daguerreotypes Were New” O Say Can You See? Blog (Sept 1, 2015): Pt 1 http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/part-1-philadelphia-snapshot-when-daguerreotypes-were-new Pt 2 http://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/part-2-philadelphia-snapshot-when-daguerreotypes-were-new
If you want to read more about Daguerreotypes, check out the Daguerreian Society http://daguerre.org/resource/history/history.html or look at more examples held by the Library of Congress http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awpnp6/daguertype.html
If you want to learn more about Early Photographic Processes, the Smithsonian is an excellent place to start. http://www.si.edu/mci/EarlyPhotography/about.html
Sarah Kate Gillespie speaks about early photography to the Smithsonian (2011) in 4 short lectures entitled: 'One Thing New Under the Sun: Morse, Draper, and the Cross-Currents of Early American Photography' http://www.si.edu/mci/EarlyPhotography/sarah_kate_gillespie.html
Take a look at the articles and watch the lectures, then explore photographs in your collection. How do they document the past? What other items in your archive, museum, or library show a past that is long gone or much modified?