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Subject: Storing photographs

Storing photographs

From: Gawain Weaver <gawain.weaver>
Date: Sunday, April 30, 2006
Ian Marsh <ian [at] tlframing__co__uk> writes

>We generally use an unbuffered museum board for photographs. Does
>anybody know if there is a definitive list of which processes are
>most suited to this environment, and which processes would benefit
>from being in standard buffered museum boards, if any?

There is no definitive list of which photographic processes are most
suited to unbuffered enclosure materials because there is no
evidence that buffered enclosures are harmful. The "list" often
includes cyanotypes, chromogenic prints, dye transfer prints, and
albumen prints. The issue of alkaline materials affecting albumen
prints was first raised in the early 1980s by James Reilly based on
his research at RIT. By 1984, and after further testing, Reilly
retracted his initial statement that alkaline buffering in enclosure
materials is deleterious to albumen prints. There has been no
research since then to suggest otherwise. The other processes have
made it on the list based on theoretical speculation. For example,
it is well-known that a cyanotype will undergo fading by alkaline
hydrolysis when placed in an alkaline solution. Dye transfer and
chromogenic prints can also be negatively affected by such
treatment. However, it has not been demonstrated that the alkali
reserve used in buffered enclosures has any negative effect upon any
of the photographic processes.

There is some concern that in a disaster involving water, the alkali
reserve from the enclosure could raise the pH of the water in which
a print is immersed. Based on such considerations, some have chosen
to "play it safe" and use unbuffered enclosure materials for
cyanotypes, and less frequently, for other processes as well.

Gawain Weaver
Andrew W. Mellon Fellow
Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation
George Eastman House


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                  Conservation DistList Instance 19:53
                  Distributed: Sunday, April 30, 2006
                       Message Id: cdl-19-53-001
                                  ***
Received on Sunday, 30 April, 2006

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