"There, do you see it?” she asks, holding up a small, silvery rectangle in the half-lit room.
For a moment, I do: a splash of blue on a bird’s wings. Then it disappears. The photograph, captured some 160 years ago, reveals the outline of an owl and three smaller birds.
Lifting another plate from a storage box labeled “Hill, Levi,” Michelle Delaney sighs as she examines it.
“Oh, that makes me sad. You used to be able to make out the outline of the village in the center here, but it’s faded even more now,” she says. I see only a blur of brown, gray and white; what a ghost might look like caught on camera...
Read more about Levi Hill, the mysterious minister who may or may not have been the first to invent color photography, in the April issue of Smithsonian.