Conservation of Photographs: From Macro to Micro Environment Workshop

Centre de Recherche sur la Conservation des Collections (CRCC)

September 20-24, 2010

Instructors: Bertrand Lavédrine, Director, CRCC Léon-Bavi Vilmont, Chemist, Head Audio/Visual Department

DAY 1: THE IMPACT OF THE ENVIRONMENT ON PHOTOGRAPHS PRESERVATION AND THE ISO RECOMMENDATIONS

ABSTRACT

The protection of photographs is accomplished through a set of physical barriers that meet specific and complementary objectives. Together air quality, temperature, and relative humidity play a significant role in determining the life expectancy of photographs. Fragile images may survive for many decades if preserved under strictly regulated relative humidity and temperature conditions. Even images considered among the most stable may be severely damaged if the atmosphere is too polluted or too humid. Contrary to other areas of cultural heritage, photography is in the fortunate position of having standards and specifications for recommended practice that help define parameters for some of the key environmental variables. National and international standards are useful tools to clarify the terminology and describe testing methods. Such standard exist for storage, exhibition conditions and enclosures.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

An understanding and assessment of risk; the identification of damage and deterioration and the application of preventative measures are some of the key factors that influence the decision making process of a photograph conservator. Workshop participants will be provided an introduction to each of these factors especially in the context of existing standards. The usefulness and limitations of prevailing standards will also be examined.

CONTENT OUTLINE
• Air Quality
o Humidity (definition) and impact on photographs
o Temperature and influence on life expectancy
o Pollutants
Standards for:
o Storage

SCHEDULE

o Processing photographs
o Life expectancy

Morning: lectures
• Introduction about CRCC and the situation of photograph conservation in
France.
• Importance of RH, temperature and pollutants control for long term storage.
• ISO standards for conservation of photographs (macro and micro environment)
Afternoon: The photographic activity test
• Practical: PAT testing paper enclosures, glues, erasers, polymers
• Cutting and preparing samples, densities measurement
• Measuring PAT after incubation
• Evaluation of results and discussion

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

“Environment and Storage” Safeguarding the documentary heritage – a guide to standards, recommended practices and reference literature related to the preservation of documents of all kinds. UNESCO (2000). http://webworld.unesco.org/safeguarding/en/all_envi.htm

“Standards: ISO, ANSI, BSI and DIN standards relating to the preservation of imaging materials.” Photographic Heritage ELearning/ Photherel. (Source: Train the Trainers. ECPA, CD-ROM developed in the framework of the SEPIA project, 2003). http://www.photherel.net/surveys/Electronic/index_html#standard pp. 1-8.

DAY 2: TESTING MATERIALS FOR THE CONSERVATION AND EXHIBITION

ABSTRACT

In preventive conservation, enclosures serve a function that goes well beyond passive protection for storing and organizing collections. Any enclosure establishes a microenvironment that can harm or enhance the preservation of a photograph. The creation of a positive microenvironment requires a careful attention to design and an understanding of physical and chemical interactions.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Workshop participants will learn and how to select and test materials to enhance the long-term preservation of photographs.

CONTENT OUTLINE

Material for enclosures
o Compatibility
o Paper, board, synthetic polymers, inks, etc
o Recommendation and testing

Creation of a microenvironment,
o Active materials
o Furniture
o Freezers for cold storage

SCHEDULE

Morning: lectures
• Papers and polymers for the conservation and framing, long term behaviour, risks and benefits
• Identification of unknown materials commonly used in frames, storage boxes and other enclosures
Afternoon:
Materials for conservation
• Analysis of paper composition, pH measurements and sizing
• Identification of polymers using FTIR-ATR
• Oddy test* and simples tests for PVC, PET, CN, CA identification
• Sulphide content tests
• Meeting with Patrick Lamotte, photograph conservator at the National Library and visit to the conservation laboratory. 5 rue Vivienne, 75001

DAY 3: EVALUATING DEGRADATION SOURCES

ABSTRACT

Photographs are composites formed of complex materials. The deterioration of the materials may be chemical, biological or physical in nature. Physical and biological deterioration often occurs abruptly and, therefore, is immediately perceptible: for instance a broken glass plate negative or the development of mold. Chemical processes are slower. They are continuous and irreversible and their progression is not readily visible. Once the progression becomes visible, the problem is generally too far along to remedy (such as dye fading in color photographs or decomposition of film support). For this reason, it is important to monitor collections for deterioration that is already underway as well as to identify and eliminate underlying causes of ongoing deterioration.

LEARNING OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this session is to allow a conservator to identify the symptoms and sources of deterioration.

CONTENT OUTLINE

Image degradation o B&W and color

Binder degradation o Biological degradation o Mechanical degradation

Support degradation

SCHEDULE

Morning: lectures
• Mechanism causing image fading: intrinsic and extrinsic causes
• The effect of processing on the degradation of silver photographs, poor washing, short/exhausting fixing.
• The role of humidity
• The visual signs of damage and underlying causes
• Meeting with Jerôme Monnier photograph conservator: framing and display of daguerreotypes
Afternoon: practical
• The standard for processing silver gelatin photographs: qualitative evaluation of residual thiosulfate and silver salts
• Preventive conservation in practice, Françoise Ploye, photograph conservator

DAY 4: SELECTING MATERIAL FOR STORAGE AND EXHIBITION

ABSTRACT

Display is a fundamental purpose of a photograph. Any exhibition requires that a photograph is properly framed and presented under suitable conditions. However even the most cautious approach may not be sufficient to ensure the protection of a photograph. Some photographs may reveal drastic changes during exhibition. Photographs have varying degrees of sensitivity to light and other environmental factors. Environmental conditions, including light levels, spectral distribution of illumination sources all must be taken into consideration. In addition procedures for documenting condition prior to display and monitoring conditions during display must be established.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

As a result of this session, participants will be aware of the possibility for light damage to different classifications of photographs. They will understand the importance of environmental assessment and practical control measures. They will have essential information to set exhibition policies governing light levels, framing materials and environmental conditions. They will have a framework to establish priorities and compromises for exhibiting photographs.

CONTENT OUTLINE
• Lighting o Light, spectral distribution,
o Light units lux and watt/m2
o Filters
• Light sources and risks
• Natural
• Artificial (Halogen, Fluorescent, LEDs)
• Exhibition of photographs
o Light Damage
o Assessment of light damage
o Monitoring lighting (Exposure and TLD)
o Luxmeter, dosimeters

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES (BIBLIOGRAPHIES, WEBSITES, ETC.) Wagner, Sarah, Constance McCabe and Barbara Lemmen, “Guidelines for Exhibition Light Levels for Photographic Materials,” Topics in Photographic Preservation 9, (American Institute for Conservation, 2001) pp. 127-128.

SCHEDULE

Morning: lectures
• Environment during exhibitions, monitoring lighting
• The light sensitivity of photographs: the micro fadeometer.
Afternoon: Meeting at the Musée d’Orsay with Thomas Galifot Curator for Photographs, Orsay Museum, quai Montherlant.

DAY 5: CONSERVATION IN CONTEXT

Meeting at the Atelier de restauration de photographie de la ville de Paris, led by Anne Cartier-Bresson, Maison Européenne, 5/7 rue de Fourcy, 75004 Paris

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