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Subject: Nitrate negatives

Nitrate negatives

From: Andrew Robb <anro>
Date: Friday, October 1, 1999
Frank A. Reynolds <fr0c [at] andrew__cmu__edu> writes

>We have a metal box in which there are a number of negatives that I
>suspect are nitrate.  I have read that one way of testing for
>nitrate negatives is by placing a small piece of film in a test tube
>of trichloroethylene to see if it sinks when completely wet.  I
>understand that trichloroethylene is very toxic, and I can only
>obtain a liter of it which is far more than what I need.
>    1.  Does anyone know of another testing method of testing for
>        nitrate film?
>    2.  Is there someplace the will test film (for a reasonable
>        fee)?

Identification of nitrate negatives is often possible without
testing. For example, edge printing, deterioration characteristics,
and age of the material can all be used to characterize film-base
materials. It is often possible to avoid destructive testing all
together. For example, a negative from 1915 will be nitrate because
no other film-base materials, such as acetate or polyester were yet
being used by the photographic industry. Monique Fischer and I have
written about the care and identification of film-base materials in
Topics in Photographic Preservation volumes 5 and 6. This
information can also be found as an appendix in Care of Natural
History Collections and at the CoOL web site

Andrew Robb
Senior Photograph Conservator
Conservation Division
Library of Congress

Monique Fischer
Associate Conservator
Northeast Document Conservation Center
mfischer [at] nedcc__org

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:23
                 Distributed: Tuesday, October 5, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-13-23-003
Received on Friday, 1 October, 1999

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