THE CONSERVATION OF A PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF CANADA
ALBUMS AND books containing photographs may be slotted into several different classifications that are by no means mutually exclusive. These include the limited edition fine art portfolio, notebooks, scrapbooks, and albums constructed specifically to house photographs. The conservation of these objects can present a variety of overwhelming problems for the institution charged with the responsibility of preserving them. Given that an album is physically in need of conservation, justification for conserving it is influenced not only by the nature of the collection but also by the relative significance of the object to that collection and the availability of resources, such as expertise and funding, needed to conserve it. The extent of the actual conservation treatment performed on an album, portfolio, or scrapbook will depend on the nature and condition of the original materials, the intended use of the object, and whether the original format is to be maintained. In contrast to the treatment of archival artifacts, the composite nature of albums, scrapbooks, and fine art portfolios often makes it impossible to devise standardized treatments. As with any fine art object, each album must be considered a unique composite object and treatments determined on an individual basis.
Devising a sensitive, acceptable album treatment requires the contribution of curators, photograph conservators, and book conservators. The conservation of the Jacobs Album at the National Archives of Canada is an example of the successful collaboration of these three areas of expertise.