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FW: Old Black&White Photos

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  • Xenia Stanford
    Please note that your reply will now only go to the original sender I am forwarding the comments I sent to Gordon about curling and cracked photographs, in
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 17, 2006
      Please note that your reply will now only go to
      the original sender

      I am forwarding the comments I sent to Gordon about curling and cracked
      photographs, in case anyone should decide to follow the advice given
      earlier. Particularly identification of which layer is damaged and
      pre-cleaning before any other treatment is carried out.

      By the way, when the photographs are in a box as recommended below, a
      humidifer in the room near the box is recommended. I also forgot to warn
      about the dangers of too much humidity if the photograph(s) are left too
      long near the high humidity source - e.g. mould - this is another reason for
      cleaning before adding an indirect high humidity source and for not cleaning
      with water or applying water directly to the photographic image or any of
      its layers. Also to ensure the items are not left in the high humidity
      source for too long.

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Xenia Stanford [mailto:president@...]
      Sent: March 16, 2006 1:14 PM
      To: Gordon Williams
      Subject: RE: Old Black&White Photos

      Hi Gordon,

      As a records manager at several major companies in Calgary, I dealt with
      archival materials including photographs.

      The cause of cracked and curled photographs probably was not the arid
      climate but former high humidity and water damage. After photographs and
      papers dry out from a high humidity situation, they crack and curl. Also
      there may have been mould inside or on the images causing discoloration and
      distortion of images. Now your task is to do no further damage as well as to
      restore or preserve the image in some way so it can be scanned and
      preferably once again reproduced on photographic paper.

      For cracked and curled photographs, do the following:

      Since most photographs consist of three layers, each layer must be treated
      without damage to the other layers. Read all steps before starting any
      treatment because recommended treatment for one layer may further damage

      The IMAGE layer has the minerals (e.g. silver), dyes and pigments, which
      make up the visible image. The BINDER layer consists of albumen, collodian
      or gelatin in which the image layer is suspended. Both these layers have a
      primary SUPPORT, which is the third layer. It is usually a paper mount but
      may be composed of glass, metal or plastic. I assume your photos are on
      paper as the primary support, so the treatment steps below assume this is
      the case.

      Besides the three layers, there can be secondary layers, e.g. coatings,
      frames and cases applied to the three layers, causing even more types of
      material to consider.

      First, if there are any layers (other than the primary three) that can be
      removed without further damage, do so. E.g. glass or a frame or a mat. If
      any of these are adhered to the image and cannot be separated, do not
      attempt home repair. See a professional conservator.

      If non of the secondary layers are adhered, at this first stage do not
      remove the primary three layers from each other. No attempt should be made
      to remove coatings applied on the photograph itself.

      Most importantly do not use any tapes or other adhesive material, even if of
      archival material, to repair tears or cracks. Do not use any water or
      solvents directly on any of the three surfaces to clean, etc. - especially
      on the image layer. Do not use cleaning fluids or solvents even near the
      photographs because the fumes can cause damage.

      If the non-primary layers can be removed, then treat according to the damage
      to each primary layer as below:

      FIRST clean the photographic image and any of the other visible primary
      levels (usually the support layer. Brush with a clean soft brush using light
      strokes over the surface. Start in the centre and brush to the edges rather
      than vice versa - less likely to cause streaks which is more likely to
      happen by going from one end to the other. Clean brush frequently with clean
      soft low nap cloth (e.g. clean shammy). If photographs are dirty when placed
      in the high humidity conditioning, irreparable damage may be caused, e.g.
      discolouration caused by surface dirt adhering to the image.

      1. If the primary support has suffered extensive damage, place the
      photograph carefully in a polyester sleeve with an archival board support
      before treating with an indirect source of high humidity (indirect means not
      touching any portion of the three layers), such as Judii suggested.

      2. If the binder layer (which is what you suggest) is flaking or cracked,
      place the photograph in a shallow box. DO NOT PUT IN A POLYESTER SLEEVE OR
      USE WEIGHT. Treat with indirect source of high humidity.

      3. If the photographic image and any coatings are damaged by cracking,
      folding or any other distortion to the image, DO NOT ATTEMPT HOME REPAIR -
      DO NOT APPLY ANY WEIGHT OR FORCE the photograph to uncurl as it will only
      cause the cracks to spread and deepen. Take it to a professional in image
      reconstruction. Your original may be damaged beyond repair but the
      professional in image repair (we have had at least two such companies at the
      seminars - email me privately if you wish a recommendation) will be able to
      provide a new photographic image from the damaged one and put it on proper

      emulsion side and the paper will crack like glass - and this will make it
      harder to create an undamaged/restored image.

      To safely view the inside to see if the damage is not on the photographic
      image, carefully unroll a small section at a time and allow the free edge to
      roll up as you move along to the next section. If you meet any resistance in
      the rolling process, stop immediately. If you are able to roll to the end
      without resistance, the photographic layer itself is safe and you can treat
      the emulsion/i.e. binder layer as above.

      I have deadlines to meet so cannot give more advice at this time. If you
      would like to talk to me for further details, give me a call or email.

      Xenia Stanford (president@...)
      A.G.E. Ancestree Genealogical Enterprises
      Local genealogy book sales, professional research & writing:
      http://www.knowmap.com/age/ <http://www.knowmap.com/age/>
      Column: "Nos Racines Francaise" http://globalgenealogy.com/globalgazette
      Scrapbooking & preservation techniques
      Phone: (403) 295-3490; Fax: (403) 274-0564

      -----Original Message-----
      From: owner-dist-gen@...
      [mailto:owner-dist-gen@...]On Behalf Of Gordon Williams
      Sent: March 15, 2006 10:24 PM
      To: dist-gen@...
      Subject: Old Black&White Photos

      Please note that your reply will now only go to
      the original sender

      A large box of a hundred or more old B&W family snapshots has recently come
      into my possession. Some go back to the 1920s and beyond (and some even
      have the names of the individuals in them written on the back!).
      Unfortunately they were stored loose in shoe boxes for decades and, in the
      arid Manitoba climate, they have dried out, the emulsion has cracked and
      they have acquired a bad case of "Prairie Curl". I plan to scan them, but
      would like to minimize the damage that would result if I simply used brute
      force to flatten them in their present brittle condition.

      All suggestions as to how I might proceed would be greatly appreciated.

      With thanks,
      Gordon Williams



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