Chapter 3: Treatment Options – LINGUA FRANCA – A Common Language for Conservators of Photographic Materials

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Chapter 3: Treatment options. Image of a family portrait: a small child is standing while  reading a book with her father as he is seated, standing beside him, his wife, seated beside her an elderly woman and beside her a small boy is standing.

Treatment options

Mould removal / Reduction

Mould is reduced/removed from a daguerreotype bare plate. Using a fine paint brush with one or two hairs remaining, the mould spider is gently brushed. A hurricane air blower is then used to blow away any loosened debris.

A paint brush is used under a microscope to remove mould from a photograph of three young girls. One girl is standing between two who are seated on either side.

Sealing tape removal for cased objects

Conservation sealing tape is mechanically removed from the back of a bare plate daguerreotype. A cotton swab dipped in distilled water is passed slowly over the tape, as it is removed.

The white tape on the back of a photograph is removed with a cotton swab.

Glass plate repair

A repair on glass plate negatives uses a two-part epoxy. The epoxy is prepared and dabbed along one edge of the broken glass plate. The two pieces are then attached and held together using pressure. The plate is left to dry under weights.

A close-up of a man wearing white gloves treating a broken glass plate negative by wiping the broken glass. Beside him is a box of glass plate negatives, in front of him are pieces of the negative. 
A glass plate negative broken into three pieces.  It is shown as a negative. The image is of a family portrait: a small child is standing while  reading a book with her father as he is seated, standing beside him, his wife, seated beside her an elderly woman and beside her a small boy is standing.
A positive of a glass plate negative. The image is of a family portrait: a small child is standing while reading a book with her father as he is seated, standing beside him, his wife, seated beside her an elderly woman and beside her a small boy is standing.

Window mount

This technique can be used with a curling print requiring a mount for exhibition or storage. A mount paper that is slightly thicker than the photograph is chosen. A window is cut out to accommodate the photograph. Small strips of Japanese tissue coated with Klucel®-G are reactivated and placed along all four sides of the photograph and the mount paper.

With a paint brush a man is brushing solvent onto strips of Japanese tissue onto the back of a photograph and mount. There are weights on the photograph and mount. The back of a photograph with a French inlay.

Cleaning of original glass

Original glass is rinsed with distilled water and dried with a soft cotton, non-woven fabric. Sometimes a mild soap is used. The last rinse can be either ethanol or acetone. The glass is then placed on its edge and airdried in a dust-free area.

An aqueous solution is squirted onto the glass. A portrait of a First Nations chief with feather headdress and holding an axe. 

Humidification

When a photograph has mechanical deformities such as creases, bends or wrinkles, the conservator flattens the photograph. In most cases, the photograph is first gradually and lightly humidified to relax it. Then, the image must be dried slowly and completely.

A photograph lying in a humidification chamber. The door is open and steam is escaping.

Dry cleaning

To ensure the stability and clarity of the works, the conservator dry cleans the primary and secondary supports when they are soiled. The object is first brushed to removed dust. Then a kneaded or grated eraser is applied with or without a piece of cotton. After it is cleaned, the eraser is brushed away.

An image of a gloved hand rubbing small pieces of eraser with a cloth onto the surface of a photograph. Beside another image of a gloved hand brushing small pieces of eraser off the surface of the photograph.

Cleaning with solvents

When photographs have heavy dirt marks or stains that are resistant to dry cleaning, the conservator cleans them with solvents. The choice of solvent, used alone or in a mixture, and its method of application depend on the sensitivity of the process and the solubility of the residue needing to be removed.

Two hands wearing blue gloves, rolling a cotton swab onto a photograph

Condition report

The condition report is where information on the condition of a work is recorded before any intervention or exposure: the references of the work, the photographic process and any mechanical, biological or chemical deterioration. The condition report helps determine preventative measures and stabilization or conservation treatments.

Woman writing a report beside a photograph.

Removal from mount

Unmounting consists of removing a photograph from its secondary support. This is done only when it is absolutely necessary for the preservation of the work.

Two hands wearing purple gloves removing a black and white photograph from its mount using a plastic tool.

Credit: Nathan Lerner

Lining

When a photograph's support has fragile areas such as creases or tears, the conservator uses lining to ensure safe handling. This strengthening procedure consists of attaching a suitable paper to the back of the photograph.

A person is brushing liquid onto a tissue that is in contact with the back of a photograph.

Micro-sealing

Micro-seali

ng consists of creating a hermetic or semi-hermetic mount to isolate a particularly sensitive photograph and to minimize any risk of deterioration caused by the harmful effects of the environment.

A person is applying tape to the edge of a matted photograph.
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