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Preserving historic photographs

This Preservation Advisory Centre training day was held at the British Library Centre for Conservation on 12 July 2012.

Photographic collections are found in libraries, archives and museums all over the world. Their sensitivity to environmental conditions, and the speed with which images can deteriorate present special challenges. This one day training session is led by Susie Clark, accredited photographic conservator. It is aimed at those with responsibility for the care of photographic collections regardless of institutional context.

The day provides an introduction to understanding and identifying photographic processes and their vulnerability, information on common conservation problems and solutions, and the preservation measures that can be taken to prolong the life and accessibility of photographic collections. Contact with real examples of different photographic processes is an important feature of this training session which is therefore limited to only 16 places.


Why did you attend this training day?

  • Concerned about condition and storage of small but v. mixed photographic collection (c.1890-2000 era) - considering a re-housing project.
  • Commencing a digitisation project of historical photographs - need advice beforehand.
  • Introduction to identifying photographic processes for cataloguing purposes.
  • To learn more about issues and solutions for preserving hardcopy collection.

What did you learn?

  • Preferred storage methods for film and prints.
  • Basics of identifying different types of photographic prints and negatives and best practice for storage materials.
  • Overview of the history of photography, information relating to ambrotypes, storage and conservation issues.
  • Wide variety of useful information on the background behind a lot of our collection material, especially some of the more obscure photographic and printing processes.

What will you do differently as a result of attending this training day?

  • Line drawers with plastazote. Look at alternative ways to store prints.
  • Reassess possibility of cold storage for 50s film negative collection.
  • Use information to aid in identifying processes. Should help for storage after work has been digitised.
  • Re-package items, spend more time identifying types of photos. Promote more internal staff awareness.

Other comments

  • Brilliant day - chock-full of information presented in an engaging style.
  • Excellent training session. Susie is an excellent and engaging speaker, and very willing to answer specific enquiries form participants.
  • It will be a great help for our long-term planning / bidding and immediate work with volunteers.
  • Brilliant day - thank you.


  9.45 Registration
10.00 Welcome and introduction
10.15 History and identification of photographic processes
11.30 Break
11.45 Conservation problems and solutions
12.45 Lunch
13.45 Conservation problems and solutions
14.45 Break
15.00 Preservation measures
16.15 End