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Subject: Bettman archive

Bettman archive

From: Walter Henry <whenry>
Date: Thursday, April 19, 2001
Press Release from <URL:>

    **** Moderator's comments: Thanks to Henry Wilhelm
    <hwilhelm [at] aol__com> who provided the Corbis press release. For
    another perspective, see Sarah Boxer's "A Century's Photo
    History Destined for Life in a Mine", New York Times, April 15,

Corbis to Build Premiere Sub-Zero Photographic Film Preservation

Seattle (April 16, 2001

Embracing its role as cultural steward, Corbis
<URL:>, a global leader in digital photography
and imagery, today announced it plans to build a state-of-the-art,
sub-zero film preservation facility in western Pennsylvania to store
and preserve the massive and aging collection of the Bettmann
Archive and other historical images for centuries to come. To
accomplish this goal, Corbis is constructing a 10,000 square foot
underground storage facility and film digitization lab that will
preserve and make accessible worldwide the millions of photographs
in the Corbis collections in their original form for countless
generations. Construction of the facility, and movement of the
Bettmann Archive into it, is expected to be completed by winter

"This is a momentous occasion for photography," said Corbis CEO
Steve Davis. "Along with the digitization of much of the Bettmann
Archive and other historic collections that we've already completed,
the storage facility and lab ensures that precious imagery from
American history will not only be preserved, but that it be
accessible to people for the long term." "It is a wonderful thing
that in the final chapter of the 150-plus years of traditional
photography--now rapidly being replaced by digital imaging
technology--such a major effort is being waged to preserve this
large and important body of original material so that it will remain
available in its original form for future generations," said Henry
Wilhelm, president Wilhelm Imaging Research, the company assisting
Corbis in the preservation project.

Prior to its acquisition by Corbis in 1995, leaders at the Bettmann
Archive recognized that significant deterioration due to heat,
humidity and handling, had occurred in many of the nation's
historical photography collections, including the 17 million-image
Bettmann Archive itself, and others such as United Press
International, International News Photos and Acme. A preservation
team was assembled and plans implemented to care for the Bettmann
Archive photographs where they resided in New York. When Corbis
purchased the Bettmann Archive, these initiatives were expanded to
include exploring facilities that would provide permanent

250,000 of the Bettmann Archive images--most of which are currently
available through Corbis to creative professional, editorial,
business or personal customers. Eventually, working with a number of
outside consultants--most notably Wilhelm Imaging Research of
Grinnell, Iowa--Corbis selected Iron Mountain/National Underground
Storage in Pennsylvania as the site for the new, long-term storage
facility. As the collection is moved from New York to Pennsylvania,
the Bettmann Archive will be temporarily unavailable only as Corbis
packs and ships it over the next 10 months. Prior to, and after the
move, access will be the same as it has been.

The facility will be environmentally controlled with specific
conditions (minus 4 deg.F, relative humidity of 35%) that have been
calculated to maintain photographs in an essentially unchanged state
for thousands of years. These conditions preserve the inherently
unstable cellulose acetate film base used with the great majority of
photographic films, as well as the generally very unstable dye
images of the color transparencies and color negatives found in
historical collections. Although the effects of degradation already
present cannot be reversed, the goal is to arrest color fading and
film deterioration so that the original images will be preserved for
future access and, when necessary, digital restoration. Failure to
preserve the images in this way would ensure their destruction and
disappearance forever.

Coinciding with the preservation process and the move, Corbis is
pursing an overall corporate goal to build an all-digital business
model and work flow. For the Bettmann Archive, this meant the
development of a sophisticated cataloging and on-line digital
archive system, as well as the installation of a high-resolution
film digitization lab at the Pennsylvania facility. So, by
transferring all available Bettmann Archive caption cards into a
globally accessible text database and being able to digitize and
fulfill orders through an on-site lab at the storage facility,
Corbis will be able to achieve its two key goals--preserving the
collection and providing worldwide access to the photographs.

"The preservation of these photographs will also make certain that
the original negatives and transparencies will continue to be
available in the best condition possible for future digital color
restoration, film grain reduction, and image sharpness enhancement
technologies. For photographers whose images are contained in the
Corbis collections, the new preservation facility will help preserve
their life's work--and their place in photographic history--far into
the future," said Wilhelm. "The Corbis facility will set new
preservation standards for both museum and commercial photographic
collections worldwide."

                  Conservation DistList Instance 14:56
                  Distributed: Monday, April 23, 2001
                       Message Id: cdl-14-56-001
Received on Thursday, 19 April, 2001

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