Three years ago, conservators at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, began restoration work on the deteriorating plates. It wasn't until then that photography historians realized just how good the pictures were. When displayed at 30-power magnification, you can see curtains in distant windows and even identify individual spokes on wagon wheels.
The daguerreotypes were beginning to deteriorate so conservators placed them in a case filled with inert argon gas to arrest the deterioration. The images were then digitally scanned by specialists at the University of Rochester.
Were your ancestors in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1848? If so, you can see what they saw. Even better, the pictures also show what life was like in most any mid-western city of the day.
You can view Charles Fontayne and William Porter's daguerreotypes at http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/07/ff_daguerrotype_panorama/all/1