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Subject: Bleaching and redevelopment

Bleaching and redevelopment

From: Michael McCormick <ah670>
Date: Saturday, August 10, 1991
>From: "Hilary A. Kaplan" <BM.GSK [at] RLG__bitnet>
>The short answer to Michael's question is NO, neither "Restore" nor
>other bleach/redevelopment products should be used on holdings of
>permanent value.  

Thank you for responding, Hilary.  This is precisely the information I
really wanted.

Certainly, the second hand knowledge of the theoretical problems
associated with bleach/redevelopment is pretty widely distributed among
photo archivists.  However, the basic research that underpins the "folk
knowledge" is not.

Here in the manuscript repositories we often work without easy access to
online searching or hardcopy abstracts.  It can be difficult to know
which procedures we follow are supported by empirical research, and
which have simply developed out of archival theory.

Also, we often lack the acquisition funds for the latest texts in the
fields; my particular institution must devote most of its available
resources to collection development.  Therefore, I am quite grateful to
Richard Pearce-Moses for directing me to this particular list.  On it
for 3 days, and I've had a question answered!  That's service!

>Doug cautions that bleach/redevelopment rarely reforms the original size
>and shape of the silver filaments and therefore rarely recreates the
>darkness (density), contrast, and tone of the original image.  His point
>raises serious ethical questions about altering artistic intent or
>intrinsic value of the photographic image.  In addition, the stability
>of the photographic image may be altered as a result of this type of

Now, for purposes of discussion, let us consider briefly artistic intent
and intrinsic value.  In the case of the master photographer, the
choices of negative material, development, paper, development, and
exposure are often made with specific effect in mind.  Therefore, a
redevelopment process will clearly affect the intent, and the long term
results will certainly alter the value.

However, in a historical collection, as opposed to an art collection,
the anonymous, mass produced (as opposed to hand crafted) image
predominates.  Take, for example, a turn of the century cityscape view,
heavily faded, of unknown or low value provenance.  Might there not be
utility in a restoration that brings the tonal values back to something
approximating normal?  While it can be argued that restoration may add
tonal value that never existed, I can also suggest that, given the
original negative, I could produce widely variant prints that are
equally "valid" interpretations of the original visual information.  The
high variability of image appearance dependent on darkroom procedure
opens the possibility that the restoration creates another
interpretation of the negative.

These thoughts are contributed for purposes of theoretical discussion,
something that I rarely have time for while arranging, describing, and

Michael McCormick
Western Reserve Historical Society
ah670 [at] cleveland__freenet__edu (Internet)

                  Conservation DistList Instance 5:15
                 Distributed: Saturday, August 17, 1991
                        Message Id: cdl-5-15-001
Received on Saturday, 10 August, 1991

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