JAIC 2003, Volume 42, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. 425 to 439)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2003, Volume 42, Number 3, Article 5 (pp. 425 to 439)





1 Storage Guidelines

  1. Photographic materials should be stored in enclosures made of materials that comply with ISO 18920, Imaging Materials: Processed Photographic Reflection Prints, Storage Practices (ISO 2000).
  2. The storage facility should be periodically monitored for temperature and relative humidity fluctuations. The maximum temperature should be 24�C (75�F) and 50% � 5% relative humidity.
  3. It is recommended that works designated as valuable, irreplaceable, or fragile be clearly labeled for quick removal as part of a disaster recovery plan.

2 Handling Guidelines

  1. Inspection of paper negatives should be carried out in the presence of the collection manager.
  2. Enclosures should be designed to provide a rigid support for paper negatives, which are often brittle. The negative should be supported on a sheet of paper or board and never handled directly.
  3. Paper negatives should be viewed under controlled light conditions, blocking as much daylight as possible. Light levels should not exceed 5 footcandles (50 lux).
  4. Light boxes should be used with caution, so that heat is not generated from the light source, as this heat can cause waxed negatives to curl.
  5. It is highly recommended that Photo-Tex interleaving paper of the enclosure be placed directly against the recto and verso of negatives with wax admixtures and flaking media. This step is necessary to protect the delicate surfaces of these materials, which can include flaking media and tacky transpar-entizers, such as wax.

3 Exhibition Guidelines

  1. Because each paper negative is an individual artifact, the agent and a photograph conservator should jointly evaluate exhibition possibilities.
  2. Exhibition light levels should not exceed 5 foot-candles (50 lux).
  3. If the use of a backlight to illuminate the negative image is required, it should be constructed using a fiber-optic, non-heat-generating unit. With a light meter, measurements should be taken before the paper negative is placed. The lighting mechanism should be installed with a switch timer or motion sensor to terminate lighting when there are no viewers present.

4 Monitoring Guidelines

  1. In accordance with ISO 18920, Imaging Materials: Processed Photographic Reflection Prints, Storage Practices, an adequate number of photographs should be inspected at two–three year intervals. If deviations from recommended temperature and relative humidity ranges have occurred, inspection should be made at more frequent intervals. A record of inspection results should be maintained to monitor changes in appearance of photographs. Periodic re-inspection should be performed to ensure that corrective actions are effective.
  2. The changes to note during inspection should include: physical changes in materials such as warping and other planar distortions of substrate, cracking in coating and media flaking, and visual changes such as density change or the appearance of microblemishes.
  3. It is recommended that a conservator of photographs establish a baseline reading with either a densitometer or a spectrophotometer to reference changes in the collection.


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LEE ANN DAFFNER is a graduate of the Art Conservation Department at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where she received an M.A. and certificate of advanced study in art conservation. She has studied and worked with paper negative collections at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, England. She is conservator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Address: Conservation Department, Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53d St., New York, N.Y. 10019

Copyright � 2003 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works