CONDITION SURVEY ATLAS FOR PHOTOGRAPH COLLECTIONS
EVTEK Institute of Art and Design, Vantaa. Finland
* István Kecskemčti: email@example.com
Photograph collections have a dual value. Individual photographs and negatives are historic and
authentic objects of their time. They represent the technology and processing of the past. Primarily
the values in photograph collections are considered to be informative values. Nevertheless, it is of
importance to survey the condition of the collection as the first step in collection management.1
Photograph collections in museums, libraries and archives arc usually very large containing several
thousands of objects or even more. Therefore thorough individual survey of objects is too time
consuming. Methods for surveying large amounts of photographic objects have been developed
recently.1-4 No standard for surveying of large collections has still yet been made.2
Statistic approach is often used in surveying large collections of books and archival materials.5
Random sampling is not always a good option due to the very specific deterioration behaviour of
photograph materials. Several studies have presented the different deterioration phenomena
characteristic for photographic materials.6-10 Many different deterioration factors arc present, both
internal (e.g. bad processing, acid hydrolysis of acetate film base) and external (e.g. climatic)
factors. Due to the specific laminated structure and very sensitive image layer deterioration
behaviours of photographic materials arc specific.
This work has started with in 2002 and it has already been used by the conservation students of our
Institute in condition surveying of different photograph collections. It has been also in use on the
surveying of Uno Wegelius collection of 856 glass plate negatives. The method will also be adapted
for book and archival materials in the education of paper conservator students of our Institute. The
surveying method consists of categorisation of damages types and damage amounts. An essential
part of the surveying method is a Condition Survey Atlas for giving details of the categories and an
EXCEL form, where the results are presented. This poster will concentrate to the condition survey
of silver gelatine glass plate negative collections.
2.1. Categorisation of damage types
Damages of glass plate negatives are divided in 6 groups according to the most usual damages.
A - damages caused by biologic factors
B - emulsion damages, both caused by mechanical or climatic reasons
C - silver mirroring
D - yellowed or bleached silver image
E - dirt or other foreign material present
F - damages of the base material
2.2. Categorisation by amount of damage
It is common to use numbers from 0 to 3 to indicate the amount of damage.13
0 - no damage
1 - slight damage, no need for conservation
2 - moderate damage, need for conservation; should be
3 - severe damage, need for acute conservation
2.3. Data of survey results
The survey data will consist of three different files. The results of the survey are written on Excel
writing file. From writing file the results will be automatically transferred to the Survey Printing
File. The program will calculate the total amount of different damage types and also the total
amount of damage severeness (table 1). From those results one can plan the active and preventive
conservation needs for future care. For one file the information of 200 negatives can be written. The
form was planned by István Kccskemčti and realised by a student of paper conservation Ilkka
Heikkincn in autumn 2002.
With this surveying method one can survey the condition of 500-800 glass plate negatives per day,
depending on how they are reached from their storage envelopes.
Table I: The results of different damages and the severity of damages.
3. Condition Survey Atlas
In order to interpret the survey results by the same way by different individuals an illustrated
Condition Survey Atlas was created. In this Atlas each damage category with letter and number are
described. Several photographs belonging to most categories have been taken to make the
identification of damages more precise. During the planning of Atlas no sampling from collections
was made; Uno Wegelius collection of 856 glass plates was surveyd as a whole.
This Condition Survey Atlas is planned for surveying the condition of one specific photographic
technique at a time. Most of the catalogued collections arc organised and stored by different
techniques. The main purpose of the Atlas is to create a surveying system to get more information
of the deterioration of large collections. This will help to plan the needed conservation treatments.
This survey system can be adapted easily to other photographic techniques and also to book and
archival materials. It is possible to use this Condition Surveying Atlas to survey whole collections
or to choose parts of larger collections by random sampling.
1. .1. S. Johnsen, Conservation Management and Archival Survival of Photographic Collections,
Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, Sweden. 1997.
2. Katja R. Glud and J. S. Johnsen, Survey of the still photograph collection at the Danish Film
Institute, Works of art on paper, books, documents and photographs, 2002. AIC Baltimore congress.
3. Anne Aune, Jesper Stub Johnsen, Fotokonserveringsprosjcktet (The Photographic Conservation
Project), En undersökelse av oppbevaringsforholdene og lilslanden i 14 nórske fotosamlinger,
1995-1996, Norsk Kiilturrád.
4. D. G. Horvath, The Acetate Negative Survey, Final Report. University of Louisville, 1987
5. M. C. Drott, 'Random sampling: a tool for library research'. College and Research Libraries,
1969. 30(2), 119-125.
6. Delamotte, "First report of the committee appointed to take into consideration the question of
the fading of positive photographic pictures upon paper". Photographic Journal, 1855. Vol. 2, No.
36, pp. 251-252.
7. R.W. Hcnn and D. G. Wiest, "Microscopic spots in processed microfilms: their nature and
prevention, " Photographic Science and Engineering, 1963, vol 7, no 5, pp. 253-261.
8. P. Z. Adelstein, J. M. Reilly, D. W. Nishimura, and C. J. Erbland, "Stability of Cellulose Ester
Base Photographic Film: Part I - Laboratory Testing Procedures". Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers Journal, 1992, Vol. 101, pp. 336-346.
9. Henry Wilhelm, The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs: Traditional and Digital
Color prints, Color Negatives, Slides, and Motion Pictures. Preservation Publishing Company,
10. Giovanna Di Pictio, Silver mirroring on silver gelatine glass plate negatives, inaugural
dissertation, 2002, Der Universität Basel.