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Historical Photos Preservation Guide

Historical Photos Preservation Guide

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Published by CAP History Library

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Categories:Types, Research, Genealogy
Published by: CAP History Library on Jun 12, 2012
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NEDCC, 100 Brickstone Square, Andover, MA 01810-1494 • 978-470-1010 • www.nedcc.or
Preservation LeafLet
Ga AbghCnsa n Pa PaccMnq FschSn Phgaph CnsaNhas Dcmn Cnsan Cn
“Behold thy portrait! — day by day,I’ve seen its eatures die;First the moustachios go away,Then o the whiskers fy.That nose I loved to gaze upon,That bold and manly brow, Are vanish’d, fed, completely gone— Alas! Where are they now?…” 
 So lamented a poet in an 1847 issue o 
less than tenyears ater the invention o photoraphy. The same could bewritten about many o today’s photoraphic imaes. Peoplehave been concerned about the permanence o photoraphsor over 150 years. Over that time period dozens o photo-raphic processes have been used. Each has its own uniquedeterioration characteristics and, thereore, its own specicstorae and exhibition needs. However, there are commonactors aectin the permanence o all photoraphs. Bycontrollin these actors, the deterioration o a photoraphcan be slowed, and its lonevity reatly enhanced.
CoNtrol teMPerAture AND relAtive HuMiDity
Control o temperature and relative humidity (RH) is criticalto the preservation o photoraph collections. Heat accele-rates deterioration: the rate o chemical deterioration o mostphotoraphic materials is approximately doubled with each10°F increase in temperature. Hih relative humidity providesthe moisture necessary or harmul chemical reactions leadinto much o the adin, discoloration, and silver mirrorinvisible in photoraph collections. Hih relative humidity incombination with hih temperature encouraes mold rowthand insect activity. Extremely low relative humidity may leadto desiccation and embrittlement o certain photoraphicmaterials, as well as curlin o photoraphs or akin o lassplate emulsions.Excessive uctuations in temperature and relative humidityare also damain. These may lead to structural damaewithin photoraphs, such as crackin o emulsions or warpino photoraphic supports. Temperature should be maintained at a set point at 70°F orbelow. In eneral, the lower the temperature, the better. Anoten recommended compromise between storae needsand sta comort is 65–70°F. Areas used exclusively or storaeshould be kept at a lower temperature. Relative humidity ora mixed collection o photoraphs should be maintainedbetween 30% and 50% with uctuations less than 10% a day.Storae at the low end o the RH rane rather than at thehiher end can sinicantly improve the lon-term stabilityo several photoraphic processes. Cold storae is oten rec-ommended or particularly vulnerable materials such as colorphotoraphs, nitrate lm, or saety lm. When materials aretaken out o cold storae they should be placed in a plasticba and allowed to acclimate to room conditions beore use. This avoids potential condensation and water on the coldsuraces o the object. Temperature and humidity can be controlled usin variousorms o climate control equipment. When such equipmentis not available there are still simple measures that can betaken to moderate environmental conditions. Avoid usinattics (too hot) or basements (too damp) or storae areas.Oten an interior room or closet oers the best environment.Collections should be kept o the oor where they are morelikely to be damaed by insects or water. Don’t han or storephotoraphs on exterior walls, in bathrooms, or over heatsources such as replaces, radiators, or heatin vents. Keepheat low in the winter, and encourae the sta and visitorsto wear warm clothin. Seal windows and doors to minimizeexchane o outside air. Store photoraphs in olders, boxes,and cabinets. This moderates the eects o environmentaluctuations on the objects housed inside. The use o air con-ditioners, dehumidiers, and humidiers can also be helpul.However, make sure that such equipment is improvin con-ditions and not causin them to worsen. For example, air
5.3Care o Photoraphs
NEDCC• Lealet 5.3: Care o Photoraphs • www.nedcc.or
conditionin can actually raise relative humidity undercertain circumstances.
CoNtrol Air PollutioN AND Dirt
Pollutants and particulate matter can damae photoraphs,causin adin or abrasion. Air purity is especially a concernin an urban environment.Controllin air quality is difcult. Ideally, air enterin astorae or exhibition area should be ltered and puried.Dust should be kept to a minimum. gaseous pollution canbe removed by chemical lters or wet scrubbers. Particulatescan be mechanically ltered. good air circulation is alsonecessary. Make sure air intake vents are not located nearloadin docks where trucks idle. Keep exterior windows closedwhen possible. Also, minimize interior sources o harmul ases. These include photocopyin machines, many constructionmaterials, paint umes, cardboard, carpets, and janitorial sup-plies. Metal cabinets, such as powder-coated steel cabinets,are preerred over wood as wood oten enerates harmulperoxides. Finally, keep photoraphs in archival-qualityenclosures.Enclosures keep dirt o objects and may help decrease theeects o pollutants. Enclosures containin activated char-coals and molecular traps have recently become availableand appear to be eective in this reard.
CoNtrol liGHt levelS
Liht causes embrittlement, yellowin, and adin in photo-raphs. Liht damae is cumulative and usually irreversible.Direct sunliht is the most harmul liht source; incandescent(tunsten) lihtin is enerally preerred to uorescent.However, all orms o liht are damain and should bemoderated.Do not place valuable photoraphs on permanent display.Use copies whenever possible (color laser copies are an in-expensive, readily accessible alternative) and keep liht levelsas low as possible. Avoid hanin photoraphs where theywill be exposed to dayliht, especially direct sunliht, orto unltered uorescent lihts. Both o these liht sourcesenerally ive o hih amounts o damain ultraviolet liht.UV-absorbin sleeves can be used to lter out damain raysrom uorescent tubes and UV- absorbin sheets can be placedover windows or in rames. Also, low UV-emittin bulbs arenow available. Be aware that certain types o photoraphsare much more susceptible to liht damae than others. Mostcolor photoraphs ade rather quickly on display, whilecontemporary ber-base black and white prints are essen-tially stable to liht. The exhibition o nineteenth centuryphotoraphs should be limited and careully controlled.
CoNtrol HANDliNG
Finerprints can cause chemical damae to photoraphs,resultin in bleachin or silver mirrorin. Careless handlincan cause physical damae such as abrasion, tears, or break-ae. Use clean loves or clean, dry hands whenever photo-raphs are handled. Don’t touch photoraphic emulsions.Handle photoraphs careully. Proper enclosures (sleeves,albums) provide protection rom nerprints and physicalsupport to protect aainst abrasion or breakae. Wheneverpossible, avoid handlin altoether by providin users withphotoraphic duplication or photocopies.I photoraphs must be labeled, labelin should occuron the reverse alon the ede. In most cases ordinary leadpencils are recommended. Where lead pencils do not work (such as with resin-coated [RC] prints) black India ink is recom-mended. Berol Prismacolor non-photo blue 919, Berol ChinaMarker brite blue 167T, or PITT (Faber Castell) graphitePure 2900B will write on RC paper.
CoNtrol StorAGe SySteMS
Proper storae materials are essential or the lon-termstability o photoraphs and neatives. They provide muchneeded physical support and protection or raile objectsand at the same time act as a barrier between the photoraphand a potentially unstable environment. It is o utmost im-portance that storae materials be unreactive to the photo-raphic material. Much damae has been done in the pastthrouh the use o reactive materials such as acidic round-wood paper sleeves, rubber bands, paper clips, pressure-sensitive tapes, and stainin adhesives such as rubbercement or animal lue.All enclosures used to house photoraphs should meet thespecications provided in the International Oranization orStandardization (ISO) ISO Standard 18902:2001,
and shouldhave passed the Photoraphic Activity Test (PAT) as speciedin ISO 14523:1999.
The rst standard provides specicationson enclosure ormats, papers, plastics, adhesives, and printininks. The PAT has two components: a test to detect imaeadin resultin rom harmul chemicals in enclosures, anda test to detect stainin reactions between enclosures andelatin. Consumers should contact their suppliers to seei their products have passed the PAT.When storin photoraphs it is best or each object to haveits own enclosure. This reduces damae to the photoraphby providin it with physical protection, support, and isola-tion rom any damain components o other photoraphs.Prints and neatives should not be in contact with each otherin the same enclosure. Acceptable enclosures may be madeo either paper or plastic.

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