JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 1, Article 5 (pp. 59 to 63)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1987, Volume 26, Number 1, Article 5 (pp. 59 to 63)


Alexander Katlan, Barbara Appelbaum, & Paul Himmelstein


  1. The main disadvantage is that no hard copy is produced. However, at worst, the conservator has almost exactly what he would have had before, that is, an image on a monitor screen. Images can be chosen and photographed at any time, with only slight loss of quality. When necessary, as for inscriptions, photographs can be taken for a client. For purposes of research, we feel that it is more important in most cases that the private conservator or the museum laboratory retain a permanent record than that the client or curator have infrared photographs. Because of the rapid developments in technology, the direct production of highquality still prints from a video tape will undoubtedly soon become possible.3
  2. Viewing requires a video tape player and a monitor. This is getting to be less of a problem, since many museums already use video tape in their education departments and therefore have monitors, and many people own tape players. (Extensive use of video tape in the conservation laboratory may make the purchase of a monitor, i.e. television, advisable. This may lure curators into the laboratory during important events, like the final game of the World Series. It is not clear at this time whether this should be seen as an advantage or disadvantage.)
  3. During the infrared scanning process, the VCR records the slight vibration and temporarily out-of-focus image produced while the camera is moving. This can be eliminated by turning the VCR on and off, or by stopping the camera periodically to record a still image.
  4. The resolution of the video tape image is never more than and usually less than that produced by the camera.
  5. Questions have arisen about the permanence of video tape. For our purposes, this is not a problem. For museums or laboratories interested in using electronic recording media for long-term records, hard disks appear to be preferable.
  6. Comparison between infrared images on video tape would require duplicate tapes and two monitors.

The video cassette recorder may be a complex piece of electronics, but it is, after all, a non-scientific household appliance. The ease of use makes it applicable for many purposes where traditional photographic methods are too time-consuming or too difficult. We would like to encourage conservators to experiment and report on other uses.

Copyright 1987 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works