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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Damaged Photograph

by Conservation

12/3/2015

conservation , photography , photograph , works on paper , paper conservation

This portrait of a girl in a lace dress with monumental ribbons in her hair has suffered many damages common to photographs.  Very obvious are the heavy grime layer and the severe silver mirroring of the dark areas of the image.  It also has water stains and is peeling away from its mount, and insects have grazed along the bottom edge, eating the gelatin emulsion.  Our paper conservator took the photograph to a workshop hosted by the Preservation Lab at the University of Cincinnati Library to learn ways to treat damages like this.  The photographic-process identification and basic photo conservation workshop was led by Thomas Edmondson of Heugh-Edmondson Conservation Services in Kansas City.  The photo was identified as a gelatin silver print, and an appropriate treatment protocol was devised.  Treatment began with reducing the heavy grime on both the photograph and its mount using dry cleaning methods.  The bottom left corner has been cleaned with this technique, and now that the grime is gone, and the silver mirroring has been almost completely eliminated, the girl’s previously obscured shiny shoes and their large tied bows can be seen.

Young and Carl, American (Cincinnati), established 1893, closed 1929(?), (portrait of a girl), gelatin silver photograph, ca. 1905-1910