Before, During, and After:
An Example of Photograph Conservation Treatment
In conjunction with CCAHA, LYRASIS, the University of Delaware, and the HBCU Library Alliance the Special Collections/Archives Department (SCAD) worked to address and improve the preservation issues facing our photograph image collection. With the help of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the department was able to hire trained conservators, hire and train staff, purchase preservation supplies, treat photos, and rehouse 11,946 items in photographic-safe containers.
Examples of Rolled Photographs
Dates (left to right): 1956, circa 1925, 1925.
Many older images have been taped and stored in a roll. This type of storage is detrimental to the life of the photograph. The color bar is included in each image to serve as a consistent reference for conservators restoring the image.
Title: Students of Regular session—1924-1925 / Prairie View
Size: 7 7/8 inches x 53 inches Created around 1925, this image is a silver gelatin developed-out-paper (DOP) print. Before receiving conservation treatment, it suffered from problems resulting from rolling, lack of environment control, storage, and the passage of time.
Here is the print following conservation. The treatment performed by the CCAHA included the following: humidification of the print and flattening between blotters and moderate weight, surface cleaning of both the front and back of the print, and removal of pressure sensitive tapes. The print was lined with mulberry paper and wheat starch paste, fragments reattached, and the binder consolidated with gelatin. The print is currently housed in a 4 mil polyester film sleeve, sealed on three sides and open at the top edge, within an archival-quality folder. To prevent further damage, the photograph should remain in the folder throughout future handling.
Thanks to conservation treatment and preservation, the transformation of this photograph from badly damaged to rescued artifact is complete.
Quick Tips for Working with Old Photographs
- Make efforts to control temperature and relative humidity. Heat and high relative humidity can negatively affect the life of a photograph.
- Handle with clean, dry hands or wear gloves to avoid chemical and physical damage to photographs.
- Keep away from food and drink.
- Store using archival-safe enclosures, such as paper or polyester sleeves.
- Avoid using paperclips and rubber bands to organize photographs.
- Avoid marking photographs with pens or pencils.
© Copyright 2013 – Prairie View A&M University – All rights reserved
Subject Content by Phyllis Earles, University Archivist
Maintained by Karl Henson, Library Webmaster
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