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  • The RACAB's daguerreotype camera – the Light Trail

RACAB's daguerreotype camera

The Light Trail takes us to the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona (RACAB). The institution houses the original camera that took the first photograph in Spain, known as the Daguerre-Giroux daguerreotype camera.

The academy is situated in an 18th-century building on Barcelona's Rambla. It was designed by the architect Josep Domènech i Estapà and later renovated by Josep Oriol Mestres and I. Reventós. The RACAB was founded in 1764 as the Conferencia Fisicomatemática Experimental. Twenty-three years later it was granted a royal charter by the king, Carlos III, and changed its name to the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona.

The academy library has a valuable collection comprising more than 100,000 books and scientific works covering almost three centuries. It is considered one of the most important of its kind in the country. The Fontmartina seismic station in Montseny and the Fabra Observatory, with its astronomical, meteorological and seismological equipment, are also part of the RACAB's holdings.

Visit to the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona

The clock on the façade of the RACAB has been displaying the official time in Barcelona since 1891. It was designed by Antoni Rigalt. Inside the building, you'll find the neo-classical style assembly room with murals by the painter Fèlix Mestres i Borrell. Albert Einstein gave a lecture on his theory of relativity here. And in the adjacent room, don't miss the Billeter astronomical clock dating from 1869, which shows the position of the Earth, Sun and Moon, and some of the planets, until the year 2029.

The RACAB's daguerreotype camera

Light is an essential element of photography. The origins of the medium can be traced back to the daguerreotype camera invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, which revolutionised the world in 1839.

The device captures the image seen inside a camera obscura on a plate. The Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts de Barcelona soon purchased one of the first daguerreotype cameras, the forerunners of the cameras of today.

The first photograph in Spain was taken with this camera on 10th November 1839. People from the local community were invited to gather and be immortalised in a single shot of two of the city's landmark buildings: the medieval commodities exchange, the Llotja de Barcelona, and the covered arcades, the Porxos d'en Xifré, Fortunately, the original daguerreotype survives today. It was held for a number of years at the Fabra Observatory and is now one of the treasures at the RACAB.

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