February 11 & 12, 2005
February 11, 2005
The theme of this day of talks, “Coatings on Photographs,” is a celebration of the forthcoming PMG book sponsored by
the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Coatings on Photographs by Alfred Stieglitz
Constance McCabe, Senior Photograph Conservator, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Conservators and photographers have observed the presence of coatings on prints by Alfred Stieglitz for
decades, but it has been difficult to learn exactly what materials and methods he may have used to coat his photographs.
Evidence regarding his use of coatings has been discovered in correspondence between Stieglitz and his associates, and
recent developments in non-destructive instrumental analysis have shed some light on his working methods. This
presentation will briefly outline Stieglitz’s use of coatings on his platinum and gelatin silver prints, and the conservation
of his coated photographs.
The Conservation Treatment of Original Coatings on Photographs: Issues and Current Practice
Nora W. Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY &
Debra Hess Norris, Chair & Director, Henry Francis du Pont Chair in Fine Arts, University of Delaware, Newark, DE
In recent years, photograph conservators have become more attentive to the presence of coatings on photographs.
With this awareness has come heightened respect for the preservation and treatment challenges of these complex objects.
Coatings were applied to photographs to serve specific aesthetic, protective, or other practical functions. Over time, and
especially following exhibition or excessive handling, these coatings may chemically and physically deteriorate requiring
conservation treatment or other preventive care interventions. This talk will outline some of the issues and approaches in
conservation treatment as applied to damaged or deteriorated coatings. Approaches ranging from local reformation to
overall removal and replacement will be presented and discussed.
Analytical Methods for the Identification of Coatings on Photographs
Clara von Waldthausen, Photograph Conservator, Amsterdam
Establishing the presence of a coating on a photograph is fundamental to curators and conservators for a number
of reasons. Identifying coatings can be useful in art historical research by presenting a clue to the working methods and
techniques of the photographer and to aid in the dating of photographs. It is important to realize that coatings may be
present on photographs that are to be exhibited. Depending on the materials used, the coating could degrade under the
influence of ultraviolet light. A coating could be locally, partially, or completely removed or altered during organic
solvent or aqueous cleaning treatments. The removal of a coating could cause local fading, yellowing, or silver mirroring
of the image. Furthermore, the alteration or removal of original material raises ethical questions in the field of photograph
conservation. This presentation provides a brief overview of the methods used for the identification of coatings on
photographs. Destructive and non-destructive techniques will be discussed, and the advantages and disadvantages of each
method will be summarized. The usefulness of non-destructive methods for the identification of coatings will be
emphasized with a discussion of the results of research performed in 2000 at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural
The History and Preservation of Historic Coatings Applied to Daguerreotypes
Adrienne Lundgren, Photograph Conservator, The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Throughout the history of the daguerreotype, coatings were discussed in the contemporary literature as a viable
practice. Texts from the United States, England, and France revealed that various daguerreotype coating methods and
recipes were actively pursued by many of the best studios.
This paper will provide a brief overview of the practice of coating daguerreotype plates. It appears that there
were three main reasons that coatings were applied to daguerreotype plates: to provide a protective layer from handling
and tarnishing: to create a base for hand coloring; and to reduce reflections when viewing the images. The conservation
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treatment of coated daguerreotypes will be briefly addressed, and will include the descriptions of two treatment case
studies. One treatment involves the removal of mold from the surface of a plate, while the other involves reforming the
coating using water vapor.
Coatings on Salted Paper, Albumen and Platinum Prints
Clara von Waldthausen, Photograph Conservator, Amsterdam
Since the beginnings of photography, photographers chose to apply finishing coatings to their prints. Early
handbooks, letters of correspondence, and specialized journals describe the technical aspects and experimentation made
during the time. Reasons for coating nineteenth-century photographs include achieving greater brilliance and detail in
single-layer images such as salted paper prints, and to protect the image from deterioration. Secondary reasons include the
application of an isolation layer to the image prior to or following hand coloring and also to reduce the gloss of albumen
photographs printed as fine art images. This presentation will examine the types of materials used in producing coatings,
as well as discuss the influence of trends in the commercial and art markets. Illustrations of the more well-known recipes
will be given, and the methods of application will be reviewed.
Coatings on the Photographic Prints of Gustave Le Gray
Marc Harnly, Head of the Department of Paper Conservation, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, Martin
Salazar, Assistant Conservator of Photographs, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA & Dusan Stulik, Getty
Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, CA
There is anecdotal evidence among conservators, curators, and collectors that surface coatings are present on a
significant number of prints by Gustave Le Gray. This project sought to investigate these coatings in order to gain an
understanding of their nature, condition, and possible origin. Following a review of writings about Le Gray and of his
own treatises, visual and analytical examinations of the Le Gray prints were performed.
The presence of a beeswax-based coating on many Le Gray prints was confirmed. Its use appears to be confined
almost exclusively to his albumen prints rather than his salted paper prints. Among his albumen prints, particular periods
and subjects are much more likely to be coated than others. Additionally, evidence gathered by the authors strongly
indicates that the coatings were applied by Le Gray himself or under his direction. It is important for conservators of Le
Gray’s albumen prints to be aware that coatings may be present, especially when conservation treatment is considered.
The coatings may be vulnerable to alteration by some common surface cleaning practices.
Coatings on Black-and-White Glass Plates and Film
Karen Brynjolf Pedersen, Photograph Conservator, The National Museum of Denmark; Ulla Bøgvad Kejser, Photograph
Conservator, The Royal Library, Denmark; Jesper Stub Johnsen, Director, The National Museum of Denmark & Mads
Chr. Christensen, Head of Laboratory, The National Museum of Denmark with contributions by Brenda Bernier,
Constance McCabe, Mark Osterman, and Sarah Wagner
Coatings have been used on glass plate and film negatives and lantern slides to protect the image or provide a
receptive layer for retouching. A large number of the coatings mentioned in the literature are based on resins, but other
materials, such as proteins, gums, and rubbers, have also been applied using many different techniques.
Collodion plates were routinely varnished for protection, and this tradition continued with gelatin glass plates
until contact printing (POP) was no longer practiced. From this point varnishing for protection ceased, while the
application of coatings used to facilitate the application of retouching media to the smooth surfaces of the negatives
The presence of coatings on negatives can be detected by visual examination. Further analysis of the
composition can be performed with FT-IR and GC-MS. While FTIR provides information on major resin components,
GC-MS can b used to obtain more detailed information on the coating system.
Examination of the coatings on a series of historic glass plate negatives by Danish photographers from the 1880s
to the 1920s indicate that varnishes based on sandarac were in common use, but none of the coatings analyzed contained
shellac, which, like sandarac, was recommended at that time. This is probably due to the fact that sandarac was a
relatively inexpensive resin that provided an excellent retouching layer and protected negatives during handling.
Photography in Natural Colors: Steichen and the Autochrome Process
Tania Passafiume, Conservator, Photographic Materials, Library and Archives, Canada
Edward Steichen was present at the Lumière brothers’ first public demonstration of the autochrome process at
the Paris Photo-Club in June of 1907. Steichen, eager to lead photography into a new era of color photography, soon
discovered the limitations of the Lumières’ process and proceeded to improve upon it. Steichen was not satisfied with the
recommended gum dammar final varnish, and after many experiments he substituted Zaponlac varnish, a cellulose nitrate
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The subject of this presentation is an autochrome by Steichen that had sustained moderate water damage forty
years ago, and displayed delamination of the emulsion and the screen from the glass support. Treatment was only now
being considered using current research on the autochrome process. Scientists examined the final coating on Steichen’s
autochrome, and concluded that Steichen had used the original gum dammar varnish, which the Lumière brothers had
recommended. This autochrome was most likely created prior to any of Steichen’s experiments with Zaponlac, and can
thus be considered one of Steichen’s earliest examples of his use of the autochrome. The delaminating emulsion and
screen were successfully stabilized with a toluene vapor system as recommended by Clara von Waldthausen and Bertrand
Coatings on Kodachrome and Ektachrome Film
Claire Buzit-Tragni, Corinne Dune, Lene Grinde, & Phillipa Morrison, Andrew W. Mellon Fellows, Advanced Residency
Program in Photograph Conservation, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
This paper presents research conducted on coatings applied to Kodachrome and Ektachrome film, to be included
in the AIC/PMG publication, “Coatings on Photographs: Materials, Techniques, and Conservation”. From 1939 to the
present day, various film lacquers have been applied to Kodachrome and Ektachrome transparencies to protect the
emulsion. A literature search provided information on the period of use, composition and application methods of these
lacquers. Additionally, conservation issues are discussed in regard to guidelines for identification, problems and solutions
described by the manufacturers, and related issues reported in the field of conservation.
Coatings Used on Photographs by Ansel Adams
Jiuan-jiuan Chen, Assistant Director for Conservation Education, Advanced Residency Program in Photograph
Conservation, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY & Gary E. Albright, Conservator, Honeoye Falls, NY
Adams coated his photographs for aesthetic reasons because he wanted them to have a brilliant and even surface.
He argued that a good coating would unify a worked surface, by imparting a lustrous surface with high reflectance. Also,
he used coatings as a method to protect photographs. He would coat unglazed photographs in order to provide easy
maintenance and physical protection of the images’ surface.
A surprisingly large number of Adams’ photographs were coated as part of the photographer’s working
technique. Our study found that there were two groups of gelatin developed-out photographs that were coated: smaller 8 x
10-inch photographs made in the early 1930’s, and large-format photographs, such as photo-murals and multi-paneled
screens. Coatings from the early 1930’s period are easy to detect since there has been significant discoloration. Yet the
coating material of this period is not mentioned in Adams’ written records, and the composition of this material is
unknown. Kodak Prink Lacquer and McDonald Photo Lacquer are known to have been used on Adams’ oversized
The discoloration of the various coatings and the degradation of many of the photo-murals and paneled screens,
compromises the clean aesthetic that Adams worked so hard to attain. Hence, the treatment of these images and the
removal of the yellowed varnish seem necessary if the photographer’s aesthetic intentions are to be honored. With few
exceptions, when these photographs have been treated by conservators, they have not been varnished after treatment. We
know that Adams was concerned about the permanence of his photographs and was willing to varnish photomurals and
screens to provide protection as well as to achieve a certain aesthetic. Thus, photograph conservators must ask the
question: If the artist were here today, would he request that a conservator recoats his prints as a preservation measure,
offering the maximum protection and viewing quality for his photographs?
The Proprietary Coating on Polaroid Instant Black-and-White Prints
Teresa Mesquit, Associate Conservator, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles CA & Barbara Lemmen, Conservator,
Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, Philadelphia, PA
During the first twenty years of production, Polaroid instant black-and-white prints required a user-applied
coating after processing. In 1970 the Polaroid Corporation introduced "coaterless" films but print materials requiring the
user-applied coating remain on the market today. This presentation outlines the background for the coating, its
composition, use on Polaroid "peel-apart" materials, and the conservation and preservation challenges it poses.
While Polaroid instant black-and-white prints often are grouped with conventional developed-out gelatin silver
prints in recommendations for display and storage, they differ from gelatin silver prints in significant ways. The image,
formed by a diffusion transfer process, is deposited in a thin, silica-based layer rather than a binder of gelatin. In addition,
the user-applied coating forms a hard film on the surface of the print. "Coater" prints are very stable if the coating is
properly applied. Flaws in the application can result in a range of phenomena, from a ridged, uneven surface to substantial
deterioration of the silver image. Common problems, current treatment techniques, avenues for future research will also
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Commercial Coatings for Photographs in North America, 1950 to the Present
Gawain Weaver, Graduate Student, Photograph Conservation, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York, NY
This presentation will examine the history of the major commercially available liquid photograph coatings and
their application methods since 1950. Beginning with cellulose derivatives, which had been in use for some time, and the
introduction of acrylic coatings around 1950, the modern photograph coatings industry began to emerge in the 1960s with
the introduction of the McDonald and Lacquer-Mat brands. UV-cure coatings for photographs were introduced by 3M in
1981, and finally “Liquid Laminates” came on the market in 1989, bringing waterborne coatings to photographs for the
first time. The general trends from organic solvent-based coatings to waterborne and UV-cure coatings, and from hand
and spray application to machine coating will be emphasized. Some of the reasons for these changes will also be
discussed, including the development of coatings technology, the introduction of color photography to the commercial
studio, and the growing awareness of the environmental and safety hazards of solvent-based lacquers.
Saturday, February 12
Evolution and Future Directions of The Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation at George
James M. Reilly and Grant B. Romer, Co-directors, Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation, George
Eastman House, Rochester, NY
This talk presents an update on the progress and evolution of the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph
Conservation at George Eastman House (ARP) and charts its future directions. The ARP is now in its sixth year of
existence and is one of the most significant training and fellowship opportunities in the worldwide field of photograph
conservation. Funded largely by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and from additional support from the Getty Grant
Program, the ARP has recently reorganized its curriculum and staff and strengthened its research component. The
reorganized curriculum reflects the multifaceted roles of a photograph conservator in today’s world: conservator,
educator, researcher, and preservation specialist. Staff and research facilities of the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) at
Rochester Institute of Technology play a larger role in the reorganized Program. Topics that occupy a prominent place in
the curriculum include treatment theory and practice, photographic history and connoisseurship, technical history,
chemistry and physics of photo materials, preservation issues, digital imaging, research methods, technical examination,
and documentation. In response to peer review and suggestions from the field, the ARP has undertaken a multi-year
research focus for fellows and faculty on the characterization of fiber-base black and white prints. This work is done in
collaboration with Paul Messier of Boston Fine Art Conservation and Dusan Stulik of the Getty Conservation Institute.
Experience to date with the ARP has shown the pool of applicants to be both strong and quite international in character.
Applications for the fourth two-year cycle are being accepted pending the outcome of fund raising efforts.
Characterization of Black and White Silver Gelatin Fiber-Based Photographic Prints
Corinne Dune, Lene Grinde, & Ralph Wiegandt, Andrew W. Mellon Fellows, Advanced Residency Program in
Photograph Conservation, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
This paper presents research describing and characterizing the physical and visual characteristics of twentieth
century black and white silver gelatin prints. Measuring instruments and imaging systems are used to create a set of
reference images and metrics, and links them in a common visual and descriptive language. The general term “black and
white silver gelatin print” does not provide any specific information about the great range of photographic surface
textures, sheens, paper thicknesses, image hues, and paper tones that were commercially available during the past century.
This research will result in an educational publication that enriches the understanding and appreciation of twentieth
century black and white prints for all who have caretakership responsibilities for fine photographs. Well-researched
methods to accurately document and describe the surface and image characteristics of black and white silver gelatin prints
will ultimately contribute to their care and stewardship.
Study of Baryta Coated Silver Gelatin Photographic Papers: Chemometrics Approach
Dusan Stulik, Art Kaplan, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles ,CA; David Miller, Department of Chemistry,
California State University Northridge, CA, George Miller, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, Paul Messier,
Paul Messier LLC, Boston, MA
Our quantitative analytical study of baryta based silver gelatin photographic papers has shown that
concentrations of barium and strontium in baryta layer of individual photographic paper differ from one type of
photographic paper to another. The amount of barium is directly proportional to amount of barium sulfate coated on
surface of paper base during the manufacturing process. Every baryta coated paper stock manufacturer used their own
baryta layer formulation with different proportions of barium sulfate and gelatin. Strontium is present in baryta layer in
the form of strontium sulfate. Strontium sulfate a common impurity of barium sulfate that is difficult to separate from it
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chemically due to its very similar chemical properties. The concentration of strontium in baryta layer might be a function
the barium sulfate manufacturing process as well as of a function of concentration of strontium in raw material used to
prepare barium sulfate. Our feasibility analytical study has shown that analytical data on concentration of both barium and
strontium in photographic paper can be used to differentiate between different types of photographic paper. The current
phase of our project focuses on preparation of well characterized barium/strontium analytical standards that will allow to
calibrate any type of XRF analyzer to provide high quality quantitative results when analyzing photographic papers.
Working with the collection of historical photographic papers of the Paul Messier LLC conservation laboratory and with
the collection of the modern photographic papers of the Reference Collection of the Getty Conservation Institute we
started to build up a database of analytical information, physical measurements as well as of manufacturing descriptors
and production dates of variety of photographic papers. The ultimate goal of our long term research project is to build up
a very comprehensive database of information on baryta layer based photographic papers that will be able to serve both
photographic conservation and art historical communities by assisting in answering of some provenancing and
authentication questions related to photographs and photographic collections. We are also investigating and testing the
application of advanced chemometrics methods that can assist us in finding a match between results of chemical analysis
and physical measurements conducted on unknown paper samples of baryta based photographic paper with data from the
photographic paper database.
The Analysis of Photographs Using X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy: Summary of the Second DIA Workshop
Valerie Baas, Conservator of Photographs and Works of Art on Paper, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit MI; Karen
Trentelman, Senior Scientist, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, CA
The second workshop on the analysis of photographic materials using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy
was held at the Detroit Institute of Art July 8-9, 2004. Whereas in the first workshop the focus was on determining the
range of detectable elements and sensitivity of the various spectrometers currently in use in museum laboratories, the
focus of this second workshop was quantification of XRF results. A set of samples were analyzed by the participants in a
round-robin to calibrate the response from different spectrometers. During the workshop, conservators and conservation
scientists along with scientists from industry met to discuss the results of the round-robin, quantification procedures (and
limitations) and new XRF instrumentation and techniques. In addition, current research into photographic materials was
also presented. A summary of the findings of both workshops will be discussed.
Four Metallic Photographic Prints from the Harry Ransom Center Collection
Barbara N. Brown, Conservator of Photographs, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX &
Dusan C. Stulik and Herant Khanjian, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, CA
Four unusual photographic images in tones of copper, silver and gold, from the Gernsheim Collection of the
HRC at the University of Texas at Austin, were a focus of an analytical investigation using digital microphotography, X-
ray spectrometry and infrared analysis. Described as a “Metallic Photo Print” on labels on the back of the wooden
substrates of three of the photographs studied, these labeled images also provided the British patent number under which
the process was registered. The study of the patent literature together with results of analytical investigation helped to
understand the process. The detailed microscopic investigation of the silver portrait of Queen Victoria also revealed a
mourning bracelet containing a photograph of Prince Albert. A similar albumen print portrait of the Queen from the HRC
Collection, as well as a study of the women’s dresses and fashion accessories helped to provide some estimate about
when the original negatives were taken.
The knowledge of materials used to make the Metallic Photo Prints will allow the HRC to adjust accordingly
both storage and exhibition conditions of the photographs and to help ensure their long-term preservation.
About The Exhibition of Early Color Photographs Of Becquerel and Ducos Du Hauron,
Bertrand Lavédrine, Centre de recherches sur la conservation des documents graphiques, Paris France & Christine
Barthe, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France
With the growing interest of photography and early photographs in France, a lot of work has been done for the
inventory and the re-housing of photographic collections in museums and archives. This was an opportunity for the
rediscovery or the reconsideration of many valuable and unique artifacts that has been left for many years away from light
in cabinet and drawers. The expectation of the public to see these collections and originals artifacts are nowadays
increasing and new museums and galleries are design to exposed them. Despite the reluctance of professionals,
conservators, scientist to exhibit permanently sensitive works of Art, a compromise has often to be find to expose fragile
artifacts with the minimum of risks.
The case of the Ducos du Hauron photographs will be presented. In collaboration with the Niépce museum, there
is an on-going project to determine the best way to show some of these early color photographs. Different environmental
parameters have been investigated to limit the deterioration. The second case is the Becquerel images. Some unique early
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direct color positives photographs attributed to Becquerel have been recently identified in the library collection of the
MNHN. Such images, known has instable, pose a real challenge in term of access.
A Timeline for Optical Brighteners in Photographic Paper
Paul Messier & Diane Tafilowski, Conservators, Paul Messier, LLC, Boston, MA & Valerie Baas, Conservator of
Photographs and Works of Art on Paper, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit MI; Lauren Varga, Art Conservation Training
Program, State University College of New York, Buffalo, NY
A reference collection of mostly 20th century photographic paper was surveyed for the presence of optical
brightening agents. Only fiber-based, gelatin silver paper was assessed. In all 1,659 samples were examined, dating from
1896 to 2004 and representing 40 different manufacturers. No optical brightening agents were found in samples dating
from 1896 to 1954. The first occurrence of optical brightening agent was found in samples dating from 1955. Starting
from this point, the frequency of occurrence for optical brightening agents increased rapidly between the years 1955 and
1970. Toward the latter part of this date range the occurrence of optical brighteners rose with approximately 55% of all
samples showing brighteners. Between 1970 and 1980, occurrence of optical brightening agents declined to
approximately to 25% of all samples. A marked increase in occurrence was observed after 1980 when approximately
60% of samples exhibited optical brightening agents. These results indicate that a significant proportion, and for some
time periods a significant majority, of black and white, paper-based photographs made after the mid 1950’s contain
optical brightening agents. This finding has implications for the treatment and display of photographs as the presence of
optical brightening agents is not routinely documented and the effects of storage environment, display and treatment are
Optical Brighteners: A Study in Water Sensitivity
Rachel Wetzel, Graduate Student in Photograph Conservation, State University College at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Optical brighteners are synthetic materials used to enhance the visual properties of white materials. While they
have been employed in photographic papers for approximately 60 years, their properties have seldom been studied. This
research project explored the water solubility of the types of optical brighteners used in the photographic industry as well
as the potential visual implications that occur when optical brighteners are diminished during aqueous conservation
This study, conducted at Buffalo State College from 2003-2004 as a senior research thesis, looked at several
aspects of optical brighteners in relation to their exposure to water and developing chemistry. The main aspect of the
project focused on the simulated aqueous conservation treatment conducted on a set of historic paper samples that contain
optical brighteners. Each sample of historic paper was divided into thirds (a control, a developed sample, and a
developed and washed sample) and analyzed visually under normal and ultraviolet illumination. In the process of the
study, it was discovered that the developing chemistry contained optical brighteners or some other type of fluorescent
agent that would influence the brightness of the paper. These optical brighteners in the developer were also studied in
conjunction to the potential impact they have on the paper samples used in the main study. The following three
observations were made as a result of this research: (1) optical brighteners can transfer from the developing chemistry
onto the photographic paper, enhancing the brightness of the paper, (2) when photographic papers are washed, such as in
a conservation treatment, the amount of optical brighteners contained in the paper is reduced to some degree, and (3)
while optical brighteners are water soluble, little visual impact occurs as the result of prolonged exposure to water.
A more conclusive examination of the results and observations of this study as well as a brief history of optical
brighteners will be presented here.
The Gandhara Battle, Treatment of a Photographic Album
Herman Maes, Photograph Conservator, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
In 1992, Prof. Van Kooij of the ‘Instituut Kern’ rediscovers a huge old album in one of the drawers of his new
working place. The album shows around 250 photographic views of archaeological sites with objects in the Gandhara
region, an old name for a region situated in Northwest Pakistan and the border with Afghanistan. The albumen
photographs ware made between 1870 and 1885.
But the album was in a poor condition, the album pages and photographs showed deformations and nearly half of
them, were covered with different coloured mould spots.
In April 1994, the Nationaal Fotorestauratie Atelier (NFrA) was contacted for advise on the conservation of this
album. Some external experts were consulted which resulted in the writing of a conservation proposal. The album
returned to the owner, without any treatment. They started a funding campaign which resulted in a ‘GO’ at the end of
Meanwhile, thoughts on the first conservation proposal changed, resulting in the making of a new conservation
proposal, kept in mind the treated album or photographs would still be available for public access. An order was given to
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make a facsimile album for mounting the photographs in a look-alike album. But … there were still considerations to
make; what about pasting the fragile deteriorated photographs, what kinds of glues and under which conditions could they
be used, and so on.
Between 2000 and 2002 we had the opportunity a student / internship working on the problem of ‘mounting
albumen photographs in an existing album. Nathalie Minten, photographic conservation student made her final master-
study project on this item.
All the 250 photographs were removed from the album pages and mounted in a new made, look alike album.
Treatment and Research of Andreas Gursky’s Rhine II
Erin L. Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Conservation, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
This project focuses on documentation of and treatment options for Rhine II, a face-mounted chromogenic color
photograph by German artist, Andreas Gursky. The photograph measures 61 ¼ x 121 ½ inches and was printed in 1999
and acquired by the Department of Photography of The Museum of Modern Art in 2002. The photograph has been
brought to conservation for treatment of accretions, scratches and an accumulation of dust and debris on the acrylic
Face mounting photographs with an acrylic sheet has become increasingly popular with contemporary fine art
photographers since the mid 1980s. This mounting method introduces a range of unique challenges for conservators.
Physical damage to the photograph and acrylic glazing (including scratches, marring and breakage) as well as visual
changes due to light exposure are major preservation concerns. The procedures and information gained from study of
Rhine II will inform preservation guidelines for other face-mounted photographs at MoMA.
The research addresses documentation, conservation treatment and guidelines for storage and handling.
Traditional photodocumentation of surface defects and damages before and after treatment is particularly challenging due
to the large size of the work and the reflective nature of the acrylic sheet. The first phase of documentation has included a
thorough examination of the present condition of Rhine II through written reports and photographs, utilizing both
traditional and digital photography. The second phase of documentation will establish a baseline spectrophotometric
reading of the photograph using a portable, hand held spectrophotometer (X-rite model 968). Changes in color or density
will be monitored by subsequent readings. Since the spectrophotometric readings will be done with the photograph
standing vertically, certain adaptations to the equipment must be made in order to insure repeatability. The large size of
the work and the delicacy of the materials will also require certain adaptations. One idea currently being explored is the
use of a non-contact microfadeometer for spectrophotometric readings. Testing for conservation treatment has been
conducted on acrylic mock ups in order to evaluate mechanical abrasiveness of dusting materials/methods, cleaning
materials/methods, polishing materials/methods, and filling materials/methods. Spectrophotometric readings are taken in
order to quantify percent change in gloss before and after treatment. In addition, photomacrographs taken using a
differential interference camera visually document the extent of change due to treatment. Guidelines for storage and
handling will be compiled from current practice and experience at The Museum of Modern Art as well as from surveys of
other collections containing face-mounted works.
The Study of Two Humidification and Flattening Methods for Albumen Prints to Determine Their Impact on the
Evolution of Cracks in the Albumen Layer
Christophe Vischi, Photograph Conservator, Private Practice, Ottawa & Greg Hill, Senior Conservator, Photographic
Materials, Library and Archives, Ottawa
The aim of this research was to study two methods for humidification and flattening of positive prints on
albumen paper and to evaluate the impact of each treatment on the surface of the albumen. The research was undertaken
at Library and Archives Canada and supported by the Carnot Foundation (France). The albumen process was the primary
photographic print process between 1855 and approximately 1890. Prints consist of a lightweight, high quality paper
support coated with a thin layer of egg albumen containing the image silver. The albumen layer of historic prints is
generally brittle and often covered with a network of fine cracks. Various studies have shown a correlation between the
introduction of high humidity and an increase in the number and/or size of the cracks, leading photograph conservators to
limit their use of "wet" treatments as are normally employed for other photographic processes.
The study proceeded in five stages:
1. Production of samples: Samples were manufactured according to typical 19th century formulations and
methods. Ageing the sample albumen papers was accomplished by immersing them in successive baths of de-mineralized
water followed by drying. This resulted in a network of measurable cracks.
2. Determination of a methodology for measuring changes in size and number of cracks following
humidification and flattening. Several types of photography were evaluated for their ability to easily capture a sufficient
amount of information. High resolution, digital macro-photography was selected and would be carried out before and
after treatment. Points measuring approx. 1 millimeter would be enlarged 50 times. The images would then be altered in
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Photoshop® using filters from an image processing Plug-in called Image Processing Toolkit v5® by Reindeer Graphics.
The resulting black and white images allow for easy comparison, pre and post treatment.
3. Humidification of the samples: Two "gentle" types of humidification were studied: humidification in a
Gore-Tex® sandwich, and humidification in a humidity chamber. Different times in the Gore-Tex sandwich and different
times and different levels of RH in humidity chambers were tested. Weighing of the samples at regular intervals made it
possible to measure the speed of humidification. Two flattening methods were used: traditional weighted blotter stack and
the “hard-soft sandwich”.
4. Processing images and evaluating the results of treatment: The study of the evolution of the cracks was
carried out following the procedure outlined in step 2. Results showed a significant change to the cracks in as little as 10
minutes in the Gore-Tex® sandwich and little or no change after 24 hours in the humidity chamber.
5. Flattening of new and historic samples: Samples were humidified using the humidity chamber using a
range of times and relative humidity’s. They were then flattened using the “hard-soft sandwich” technique as developed
by Homburger and Kortel (Homburger, Hildegard and Korbel, Barbara: “Architectural Drawings on Transparent Paper:
Modifications of Conservation Treatments”, The Book and Paper Group Annual, vol.18, 1999, pp25-33.) Results were
evaluated using the methodology described in Stage 2 showing no changes to the cracks.
The Use of a World War II Bomb Shelter as a Storage Facility for a Collection of 20th Century Photographs
Martin Juergens, Photograph Conservator, Hamburg, Germany
The collection of photographer F. C. Gundlach is considered one of the most important private photograph
collections in Germany. The collection currently contains approximately 10,000 objects, most of these 20th Century
photographs, but due to the continuous acquisition of contemporary works, it is a growing collection. In February 2004 a
photograph conservator was requested to join a team of three employees responsible for the maintenance of the collection.
The first task has been a condition survey of the collection, housed in two main storage areas: an appartment in an old
house and a World War II era shelter, or bunker.
This talk will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the four story concrete bunker, located in Hamburg, in
its current function as a storage facility for the photograph collection. Issues relating to climatic stability, cleanliness and
security will be addressed. The work of the conservator will be illustrated in the scope of the ongoing difficult economic
situation and the lack of understanding for photograph conservation concerns in Germany. Emphasis will thus be placed
on the necessity for minimalist solutions to complex problems.
Preservation of Negatives at the BC Archives
Betty Walsh, Conservator, Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC
Archivists estimate that the BC Archives holds 250,000 cellulose nitrate negatives which are interfiled with
500,000 safety negatives and 4 million other photographs. Deteriorating films can damage other collections, and they
need to be stabilized to prevent further deterioration. Since 1990, staff have been identifying the film bases, duplicating
them, and keeping them in cold storage.
The conservator refined the film identification methods. A negative’s format and date of exposure were
compared against the dates that Eastman Kodak manufactured nitrates. Identification methods were improved for film
pack negatives. Sheet films were compared against notch code charts in David Horvath’s The Acetate Negative Survey:
Final Report, and additional charts provided by Kodak and Ilford. The conservator was able to compile a list of notch
codes and film markings associated with film bases in the Archives collections.
When all else failed, the film bases were tested. Polyester negatives were identified by polarizing filters.
Nitrates and acetates were identified by burn tests, diphenylamine tests and FTIR spectroscopy.
The conservator gave workshops to preservation unit staff on the identification techniques. The unit applied the
techniques in two projects funded by the Canadian Council of Archives: the preservation of the Master Copy Negatives
and the BC Forest Service Collection. In practice, the negatives were identified, rehoused, and segregated in one step. At
this point, the negatives were also documented and the level of deterioration noted. Deteriorating acetate negatives were
assessed with AD strips when they came on the market.
Depending on the collection, the negatives were scanned for access, and duplicated by the interpositive method.
The negatives were placed in cold storage packages based on Mark McCormick-Goodhart’s CMI design. The
photographs were stored in household frost free freezers.
Over the years, the negative preservation project has given us the opportunity to implement new knowledge and
techniques, and to work out the details in practice.
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