Through conservation keyhole: engage with photography!

September and October is The Season of Photography in Scotland. It is an initiative of the Institute for Photography in Scotland (IPS), consortium established in 2012. The Consortium is comprised of representatives from the National Galleries of Scotland, The University of Glasgow, the University of St Andrew, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, and Stills, Edinburgh. This year the Session of Photography is brings together many of the exhibitions and events taking place throughout Scotland and also in University of Glasgow Library as well.The season offers the opportunity for everyone to engage with photography.

888Today “Through conservation keyhole” will highlight basic preservation processes anyone can do to care for photographs. We heard from cataloguing team from the University’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC) about their Erskine Archive Project experiences with photograph collection and now it’s time to share some conservation experience.
There is something special about every old photograph that survived through time: someone decided to take it as a family souvenir, and a lot of us decided to keep it over the years, sometimes choosing to window-mount them and display in our homes.
Photographs show a part of our history and it’s important to preserve and protect the images.img_20160928_102421-jpg-1
Photographs are at risk of being damaged by physical enemies like direct sunlight, high humidity, pests and even exposure to adhesives and chemicals found in common photo albums.

Unfortunately, some part of the Erskine photographs collection have been previously mounted with masking tape and suffer from chemical and aesthetic damage as a result.img_20160928_102347-jpg-1img_20160928_102354-jpg-1Masking tape, you may be surprised to find, actually causes quite a lot of damage to paper and photographs. In essence masking tape is a backing material coated with an adhesive. In some photographs, adhesives made much stronger chemical bonds with the paper materials, the glue and the paper actually merge together to form a very strong chemical bond.img_20160928_102816Tape removal is a pretty common activity for conservators and conservators spend a lot of time removing a variety of tape types. If the tape is relatively new it has a better chance of being removed without leaving permanent damage and discolouration behind. The images shows masking tape removal in progress.img_20160928_111819img_20160928_102833So the first set of preservation recommendations is based on common sense: use photographic materials and keep the collection of the photographs away from bright light, widely fluctuating humidity, and extreme temperatures.img_20160928_115550Please, do not be tempted to use any masking tapes, or any plastic tapes. You’ve seen what they can do to photographs. They lose their adhesive qualities, turn brown and will leave a dirty chemical residue on the photographs and any paper materials.img_20160928_121706

If you have any problems with photographs collection and you are near a library conservation studio on level 2, that’s a good place to start by asking for a conservator advice.

You can also  be with us on Wednesday 14th December 11.00-12.00 (Talk Lab, Level 3,  University Library ) for Conservation talk on some past and present conservation projects and a behind the scenes tour of the new space and to see some of the current work or contact us on our social media.


Categories: Archives and Special Collections, Library

2 replies


  1. Through conservation keyhole: Erskine photographs – University of Glasgow Library
  2. Through the conservation keyhole: behind photographs in Erskine Project – University of Glasgow Library

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