Research on the Conservation of Photographs
 
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More than 100 different photographic processes have been tested, developed, and used since the beginning of photography. Photographs produced using these processes differ in chemical composition, in internal structure, or in both. Chemical analysis of photographs is a major tool for identification of individual photographic processes. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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Jim Reilly (left) from the IPI and Bertrand Lavédrine from the CRCDG during a 2001 project team meeting at the CRCDG in Paris. Project meetings serve as important venues for exchanges of information on research conducted at participating institutions, for assessing the progress of the project, and for monitoring project activities. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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Until now the methodology for identification of photographic processes has been based on the visual or microscopic inspection of photographic images, which includes looking for visual signatures typical of a given type of photographic process. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) is the main analytical tool used to study elemental composition of photographic images. XRF allows for both qualitative and quantitative analysis of photographic images without invasive sampling or touching of the photographs. Photo: Herant Khanjian.

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The ATR-FTIR spectrometer allows for the nondestructive analysis of photographs. The analysis of an unknown photograph takes approximately two minutes. The GCI-built spectral library of photographic processes helps to identify the photographic processes utilizing computer-aided spectra matching. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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ICP-MS is one of the most sensitive analytical techniques allowing for the analysis of up to seventy chemical elements in a photograph. The analysis of minor and trace elements in photographs is conducted in the Chemistry Department of California State University, Northridge under the leadership of Professor David Miller. Photo: Art Kaplan. to support development of new analytical methodologies and test procedures, and to provide characterized standards to aid in the identification of photographic processes. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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A small sample from a photograph is chemically dissolved, and the resulting solution is pumped into a hot argon plasma where it is ionized. Individual chemical elements are then separated and detected using a mass spectrometer. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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Scanning electron microscopy in combination with energy dispersive X-ray analysis is used to study the lateral distribution of different chemical elements in cross-sections of photographs and photographic negatives that exhibit a complex internal structure. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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The backscatter ESEM image of a cross-section of modern, fiber-based, black-and-white photographic paper clearly shows the presence of a baryta layer (white) separating the photograph's paper base from the silver-based emulsion layer. Photo: Art Kaplan.

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The glowing core of the nuclear reactor of the Department of Chemistry at the University of California at Irvine where the majority of NAA analysis of photographs was conducted. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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The gamma spectrometer is used to analyze samples of photographs irradiated in the nuclear reactor. The gamma spectrum allows for very precise and sensitive analysis of most of the chemical elements in the periodic table. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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Shin Maekawa of the GCI (left) and Barbara Brown of the Harry Ransom Center standing with a replica of the case designed to house the first photograph. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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The Baryta Layer Research Symposium consisted of a series of conservation and conservation science lectures, a demonstration of the analytical methodology for the identification of photographs, and a roundtable discussion of research needs related to twentieth-century photography. Photo: Art Kaplan.

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Symposium participants had the opportunity to learn about other GCI photograph conservation projects and GCI research in general. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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A new analytical methodology for the identification of twentieth-century photographs was demonstrated to symposium participants directly in the lecture room. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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Analysis of an unknown photograph was conducted with participation from the symposium audience. Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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Early stages of the Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes (in progress). Photo: Dusan Stulik.

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The GCI's portable lab for the analysis of photographic materials. The lab is composed of an XRF, FTIR, stereomicroscope, micrometer, and caliper. Photo: Dusan Stulik

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XRF analysis performed on the Cardinal d'Amboise plate by Niépce, from the Royal Photographic Society collection at the National Media Museum. Photo: Dusan Stulik

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Un Claire de Lune plate by Niépce, from the Royal Photographic Society collection at the National Media Museum. Photo: Dusan Stulik