Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Bleaching and redevelopment

Bleaching and redevelopment

From: Michael McCormick <ah670>
Date: Tuesday, August 27, 1991
The developing discussion, or, Chlorox II, anyone?
>From: DWNPPH [at] ritvax__isc__rit__edu
>Subject: Bleaching and redevelopment

>Does the institution control the purpose of the object?  Case in point:
>The Canadian Archives bought a large amount of Karsh's work.  Before
>they bought them, the objects were considered to be works of fine art.
>Now, because the photographs belong to an archive (collecting items of
>historical value), are the prints now archival objects (information
>only) or have they retained their status as "fine art"? All of these
>were issues that came-up during the research of this chemical treatment.

I have to think that too fine a point is being drawn here.  The items in
question can have both attributes simultaneously.  Certainly, the
Alexander Gardener and Margaret Bourke White portfolios in our
collections are regarded as both.  As such, they would not be subjected
to restorative treatment.  Rather, we copy, using appropriate lighting
and filtration.

Certainly one faces a rather more difficult decision with esthetically
appealing works of a photographer of marginal reputation.  Might that
worker be "discovered"?  Might the market value rise?  Might the
trustees grow restive were they to think that potential deaccession
value was being risked?

Granted, much can be lost, lacking the metering equipment to monitor
gelatin swelling.  Yet information is potentially regained, from the
type of cityscape or general view that I think might benefit.

>In fact, all chemical treatments are in question.  For example, there
>are many processes for chemically removing the silver mirroring on
>photographs, but should it be done?

A prominent restorator locally is using such a treatment.  I had a
rather unpleasant discussion with him on this topic, in which I
suggested that his usage of this treatment, without so informing his
patron, was rather unethical.  (I should note that the individual in
question is a photo- grapher, not an archivist or conservator.)  He was
quite blithe on the point, noting that he wouldn't be there to hear
about the consequences, and that he would have a file negative of the
restored item, and could re- print, for a fee, any time the patron

I don't think that anyone in our professions would suggest this course
of treatment.

Michael McCormick Western Reserve Historical Society

                  Conservation DistList Instance 5:17
                 Distributed: Saturday, August 31, 1991
                        Message Id: cdl-5-17-001
Received on Tuesday, 27 August, 1991

[Search all CoOL documents]