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Preservation of Photographs- A top 10 list

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This short class is intended to introduce participants to preservation of photographic collections.

This short class is intended to introduce participants to preservation of photographic collections.

Published in Education , Technology
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  • Rollovers: The binder (emulsion) layer, holds the final image material and can be constructed of collodion, albumen, or, for most 20 th century prints, gelatin. The final image material is most commonly silver (for 20 th century prints) but can be iron salts, dyes, or pigments (like digital print processes) Support (or base) materials can range from copper (daguerrotypes), steel (tintypes), glass (early negatives), and from paper to plastics. The Baryta layer makes the final image clearer and crisper to view, as it smoothes over and brightens the background. It usually consists of an opacifier such as titanium dioxide mixed with a binder. Other layers can consist of shellacs or lacquers to protect the final image, or plastic coatings to keep image from curling, and also offer image protection.
  • Support (or base) materials can range from copper (daguerrotypes), steel (tintypes), glass (early negatives), and from paper to plastics. The Baryta layer makes the final image clearer and crisper to view, as it smoothes over and brightens the background. It usually consists of an opacifier such as titanium dioxide mixed with a binder. Other layers can consist of shellacs or lacquers to protect the final image, or plastic coatings to keep image from curling, and also offer image protection.
  • Other layers can consist of shellacs or lacquers to protect the final image, or plastic coatings to keep image from curling, and also offer image protection.
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  • Once you buy the appropriate PAT tested materials, and even if you are having problems with your HVAC and controlling temperature and relative humidity, creating a miroenvironment can be a very effective buffer for your materials and a fluctuating environment. This multi-level approach to protecting collections has been used for years in the archival community. You can first sleeve your photos in paper or plastic PAT tested enclosures- and there are benefits to each. Paper blocks light, is less expensive and does not generate static which is important for fragile emulsions, but plastic allows users to view the photograph without having to handle it further by removing it from the paper sleeve. Both are available is a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on the object at hand. These photographs can go with like sized materials in folders and boxes with support material to protect the items from slumping ; or they can be arranged by like sizes - foldered and housed flat in boxes. The level you choose will ultimately depend of the level of access and resources of you institution
  • You can first sleeve your photos in paper or plastic PAT tested enclosures- and there are benefits to each. Paper blocks light, is less expensive and does not generate static which is important for fragile emulsions, but plastic allows users to view the photograph without having to handle it further by removing it from the paper sleeve. Both are available is a wide variety of shapes and sizes depending on the object at hand. These photographs can go with like sized materials in folders and boxes with support material to protect the items from slumping ; or they can be arranged by like sizes - foldered and housed flat in boxes. The level you choose will ultimately depend of the level of access and resources of you institution
  • But Probably the most prevalent material in collections is Cellulose Acetate, which was introduced as safety film in the 30’s to replace the volitle cellulose nitrate film base. Acetate was available as 35mm and amateur film bases, cut sheet film and microfilm through the 80’’ You can test any cellulose acetate materials you may have with the AD strips available through the IPI. They also have a Storage Guide for Acetate Film- available though their website
  • Color prints also have low recommended storage temperatures because of the fugitive nature of many of the dyes used to produce the color image. We probably have all seen many of our personal color photos subject to fading at room temperature even when they are kept in the dark! (i.e. pink 1970’s prints) : 35°F and 30-40% RH
  • If you need to mark on a photo- only use pencil and do so with very light pressure –marking with ink can bleed and stain, heavy pressure even with pencil can bubble and damage emulsion on the opposite side. If you have any scrapbooks with facing photographs, interleaving will be necessary- when emulsion makes contact with another photo- or even glass in an unmatted frame, the emulsion can stick together, which is often permanent and unrepairable damage. If making your materials available for use, remember that people are very attracted to photographs and the images they depict. Always have a staff member present if allowing others to view original materials- creating access copies can negate this issue.
  • If making your materials available for use, remember that people are very attracted to photographs and the images they depict. Always have a staff member present if allowing others to view original materials- creating access copies can negate this issue.
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Transcript

  • 1. A Top 10 list for the Preservation of Photographs LYRASIS Preservation Services Funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities, division of Preservation and Access.
  • 2. LYRASIS Preservation Services We offer: • Education and training: full-day workshops, live online and self-paced classes. • Information and referral: call us with your preservation questions! • Loan services: we have environmental monitoring equipment available for loan. • Publications: all types of preservation publications, downloadable for free. • Disaster assistance: We are available 24/7 to assist you. • Consulting: personalized assistance for your specific preservation needs.
  • 3. Welcome • This short class is intended to introduce participants to a few of the main topics in the preservation of photographs. Your particular institutional needs will vary, dependent on the particular types of photographs and film you are caring for. • LYRASIS has a four-hour class dedicated to the preservation of photographs, along with a wide variety of other classes dedicated to preservation topics. For more information, please visit: – http://bit.ly/LYRPresHome (Main Preservation page) – http://bit.ly/LYRClasses (List of classes)
  • 4. 1. Photographs are Complex! • Photographs constructed of many layers, all having their own physical and chemical composition. Support Binder Final Image Material Baryt a Other Layers
  • 5. Support Binder Final Image Material Baryt a Other Layers The binder (emulsion) layer, holds the final image material and can be constructed of collodion, albumen, or, for most 20th century prints, gelatin.
  • 6. Support Binder Final Image Material Baryt a Other Layers The final image material is most commonly silver (for 20th century prints) but can be iron salts, dyes, or pigments (like digital print processes).
  • 7. Support Binder Final Image Material Baryt a Other Layers The support (or base) materials can range from copper (daguerrotypes), steel (tintypes), glass (early negatives), and from paper to plastics.
  • 8. Support Binder Final Image Material Baryt a Other Layers The Baryta layer makes the final image clearer and crisper to view, as it smoothes and brightens the background. It usually consists of an opacifier such as titanium dioxide mixed with a binder.
  • 9. Support Binder Final Image Material Baryt a Other Layers Other layers can consist of shellacs or lacquers to protect the final image, or plastic coatings to keep image from curling, and also offer image protection.
  • 10. • The Image Permanence Institute has excellent resources to investigate the construction of photographs; the Graphics Atlas and Digital Sample Book. – http://www.graphicsatlas.org/ – http://digitalsamplebook.com/compare.asp via: https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/
  • 11. 2. Inherent Vice • Because of their complex structure, photographs are commonly associated with the term Inherent Vice. • The term refers to the “tendency of material to deteriorate due to the essential instability of the components or interaction among components.” • SAA Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology : •http://www.archivists.org/glossary/
  • 12. • We can take this image of a glass plate negative for example. • The glass layer of this negative is affected by temperature and relative humidity differently than the emulsion layer, which will swell in the presence of high humidity and shrink in dry conditions. • Each layer can expand and contract at different rates, exaggerated with changes in environment. This places great stress on the separate materials that are trying to “get along” together.
  • 13. • We can’t control everything when it comes to photographs, but… – Proper storage – Proper handling – Proper environment …can greatly improve the longevity of our collections! Can we prevent inherent vice?
  • 14. 3. Environment Matters • Environmental control is the least expensive and most effective preservation strategy, and can include the following factors: – Temperature – Relative Humidity – Light – Insects and Pests – Mold – Atmospheric pollutants
  • 15. • Environment is the single most effective means of extending the life of a collection. • By changing and controlling our environment, we can greatly slow the deterioration process. Here are a few online resources that outline ideal conditions for photographs and other collections: – LYRASIS: • http://bit.ly/envirospecs – CoOL: • http://cool.conservation-us.org/bytopic//environment/
  • 16. 4. The Light, It Burns! • Light damage is cumulative and irreversible. Once a photograph begins to fade, there is no bringing it back!• Historic 19th century photographs and color photographs should be kept at lower light levels than modern black-and-white photographs. Light levels for original materials in exhibits should be kept as low as possible, but high enough to allow patron viewing.
  • 17. • Levels for historic and color photographs should be in the range of 3-10 footcandles (30- 100 LUX). • Although some modern photographs can be exhibited under much brighter conditions (up to 20 footcandles), it is best not to exceed 10 footcandles whenever possible. • You can borrow a light meter from LYRASIS to determine if your exhibit conditions are acceptable: – http://bit.ly/LYRenviroloan
  • 18. Protect from light damage • Keep all photographs out of direct sunlight. • Use UV filtering glass/plexiglass when framing materials for display. (along with using PAT tested framing materials- more on PAT later) Windows and light fixtures may be UV filtered as well. • Turn off room lights when not in use • Keep all photographs foldered and boxed. • Use a light meter to determine acceptable lighting conditions for exhibition.
  • 19. 5. Know Your Materials: What does “archival” mean, really? • Many common phrases such as “archival” and “photo-safe” are meaningless unless they are used with an associated standard. • The standard you should look to for storing photographic materials is the PAT- or Photographic Activity Test- which is a worldwide standard (ISO Standard 18916) for archival quality in photographic enclosures. – You will want to ensure you are using quality products by purchasing from a reputable vendor. LYRASIS and other regional preservation centers can help.
  • 20. Look for PAT tested • Developed and Performed by the Image Permanence Institute, this test is basically a torture test for potential paper and plastic housings for photographs. • The test essentially “pressure cooks” a sandwich of samples and reactant materials in a temperature and humidity-controlled chamber at 158 F, 86% RH, to simulate aging, and predicts possible interactions between photographic images and the enclosures in which they are stored. – The PAT can also test the individual components of enclosures, such as adhesives, inks, paints, labels, and tapes.
  • 21. 6. Layers of Protection • Once you buy the appropriate PAT tested materials, creating a microenvironment can be a very effective buffer for your materials and a fluctuating environment. This multi-level approach to protecting collections has been used for years in the archival community.
  • 22. • Sleeve photos – You can first sleeve your photos in paper or plastic PAT tested enclosures- and there are benefits to each, and both are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, depending on the object at hand. • Paper blocks light, is less expensive and does not generate static which is important for fragile emulsions • Plastic allows users to view the photograph without having to handle it further by removing it from the paper sleeve. • Folder in Boxes – These sleeved photos can then go with like-sized materials in folders and placed in boxes • Be sure to have the appropriate size box to hold the folders, i.e. letter-size box for letter folders, legal size for legal folders etc. This is to prevent unnecessary shifting that would occur with a letter folder in a legal box, for example… • Support from slumping – Whether stored vertical or horizontal, be sure to protect from slumping with archival spacers and padding material.
  • 23. 7. Consider Cold Storage • There are some materials that can benefit from further protection than microenvironments. These materials are vulnerable to deterioration at normal room temperature storage conditions. The two most common materials are: • Cellulose acetate film and negatives • Introduced in the 1930’s as an alternative to the hazardous Nitrate base, this “Safety” film (and it’s close cousins) was available as 35mm and amateur film bases, cut sheet film and microfilm through the 1980’s • This material is prone to vinegar syndrome, a deterioration which causes shrinking of the base material and buckling of the final image layer. • Color film and photographic prints • Color prints also have low recommended storage temperatures because of the fugitive nature of many of the dyes used to produce the color image. We probably have all seen many of our personal color photos subject to fading at room temperature even when they are kept in the dark! (i.e. pink 1970’s prints)
  • 24. Recommended storage temperatures • Because these temperatures are not achievable in our regular collections storage areas, institutions are choosing cold or frozen storage to arrest the deterioration of their materials, either as a method or arresting deterioration before reformatting, or as long-term storage. • As we can see here recommended storage conditions for these material types, the temperatures are much lower than our average collections storage temperatures. – Cellulose Acetate: • B&W 35°F and 20-50%RH • Color 14°F and 20-50% RH (up to 35°F for polyester) – Color Prints: 35°F and 30-40% RH
  • 25. • The Image Permanence Institute has been instrumental in researching cellulose acetate deterioration: – https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/resources/publications#aceta • If you are interested in investigating cold or frozen storage for your acetate/color materials, here are a few links that discuss packing methods: – National Park Service: Cold storage interactive training program: http://www.nps.gov/history/museum/coldstorage/NPSColdStorage.swf – Cold Storage of Cultural Artifacts by Tim Vitale: http://videopreservation.conservation-us.org/library/cold_storage_of_cultu – LYRASIS’ Cold Storage of Photographic and Film Materials: http://bit.ly/LYRcoldstorage
  • 26. 8. Care and Handling • Never touch the emulsion/image side of the photograph. – It is recommended to use clean cotton gloves or nitrile gloves when handling photos. Always have clean washed hands, and do not use anti-germ goop or hand lotion when working with any original materials. • Never clean the emulsion/image side of the photograph. – Deacidification sprays and photo cleaners ARE NOT designed for historic photographs!! • When in doubt, contact a conservator – Rule of thumb, if you don’t know or are unsure, DON’T DO IT. Historic items are damaged every day by the well-intentioned and misinformed. – American Institute for Conservation- Find a Conservator Link: http://www.conservation-us.org/index.cfm? fuseaction=Page.viewPage&pageId=495&parentID=472
  • 27. • Mark only with pencil using LIGHT pressure – If you need to mark on a photo- only use pencil and do so with very light pressure on the back. Marking with ink can bleed and stain, heavy pressure even with pencil or pen can bubble and damage emulsion on the opposite side. • Photos shouldn’t touch each other – If you have any scrapbooks with facing photographs, interleaving will be necessary- when emulsion makes contact with another photo- or even glass in an unmatted frame, the emulsion can stick, which is often permanent and unrepairable damage. • Security Issues – If you make your materials available for use, remember that people are very attracted to the imagery of photographs. Always have a staff member present if allowing others to view original materials- creating access copies can negate this issue.
  • 28. 9. Plan for Disaster! • Do you have a disaster plan? Does it specifically mention photographs? • Photographs have different treatment and handling than other materials when salvaging. • Talk to disaster recovery vendors that have experience with the types of cultural heritage materials that you have at your institution. Going with the lowest bidder or local firms with no experience can be disastrous to your collections. LYRASIS can help you find a vendor to consult with.
  • 29. • A few leaflets specifically tied to salvage of photographs: – CCAHA: Salvaging Photographic Collections • http://www.ccaha.org/uploads/media_items/technical-bulletin- salvaging-photographs.original.pdf – NEDCC: Salvage of Photographs • http://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.- emergency-management/3.7-emergency-salvage-of-wet- photographs • You can find a lot of other information on disaster resources through LYRASIS: – http://bit.ly/LYRdisasterresources
  • 30. 10. Promote preservation and understanding of photographic materials • Educate patrons on proper use and handling. • In exhibits, like this image shows, we can use surrogates to promote our local and national history and prevent damage to original materials which is our mission to preserve. Photographic surrogates on display at the Georgia Archives
  • 31. • You can also investigate grants for storage and housing of photographs and other collections materials, conservation, needs assessments, and disaster planning! – National Endowment for the Humanities • http://www.neh.gov/ – Institute of Museum and Library Services • http://www.imls.gov/ – National Historical Publications and Records Commission • http://www.archives.gov/nhprc/ – State Historical Records Advisory Boards • http://www.statearchivists.org/shrabs.htm
  • 32. Follow Us on • http://www.facebook.com/LyrDigPres
  • 33. Thank You! Contact us if you have any questions LYRASIS Preservation Services preservation@lyrasis.org 1-800-999-8558