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Subject: Foxing on photographs

Foxing on photographs

From: Pollmeier Klaus <100561.2417>
Date: Sunday, September 1, 1996
Norman Laurila <normanl [at] worldnet__att__net> writes

>I recently purchased two albums of albumen photographs from the
>1890s of Egypt and North Africa.  There is foxing throughout with
>one album being worse than the other.  I have a friend who is a
>professional photographer (but not a restorer) who might be willing
>to attempt to stabilize the photographs (and hopefully remove them
>from the album paper) if I can locate information on the proper
>technique for doing so.

To my knowledge, there is no treatment to remove foxing that could
be applied to albumen photographs without the great risk of
destroying the print--and especially no treatment that could be done
by a photographer who is unexperienced with conservation and
restoration work. Also, the fading of the images will have slowed
down considerably during the last 50 or more years--the main fading
and yellowing of albumen photographs can be observed within the
first years/decades after manufacture. With proper preservation
treatment, further degradation can be kept to a minimum. Chemical
restoration, i.e. bringing back the image information by bleach and
redevelopment could be possible, but would result in something
totally different than the original image: albumen paper almost
never was developed to form the image but was printed-out in the
sun, thus creating silver particles of different (smaller) size and
warmer image tone than nowadays developed silver images.

I find the owner's attitude towards the albums questionable: The
albums have survived more than 100 years as an 'historic object,
embedded in tradition' (W. Benjamin) and Mr. Laurila wants to
destroy them ("hopefully remove [the photographs] from the album
paper") just because he doesn't have the money for proper
restoration and preservation treatment right now? The faded prints
belong to the document as well as the images of "superior
quality"and are in no way "plenty for him [the photographer] to
experiment with". Our ancestors have passed this cultural property
to us as we have borrowed these documents from our children. By
purchasing the albums Mr. Laurila also bought the duty to preserve
them. If he cannot do so, he should give them away to somebody
capable to do so or at least should leave the photographs untouched.
BTW: Some sheets of silversafe paper as interleaving sheets and two
suitable, custom-made boxes won't cost thousands of dollars and
could well serve as first aid...

Klaus Pollmeier

                  Conservation DistList Instance 10:24
                 Distributed: Friday, September 6, 1996
                       Message Id: cdl-10-24-001
Received on Sunday, 1 September, 1996

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