Review: AIC – Photographic Material Group – Biannual Winter Meeting 2015

During the 20th to the 21st of March 2015 at Harvard University and Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA, USA the last Biannual PMG (Photographic Material Group) Winter Meeting took place. This was the last of the 20 meetings prepared by the American Institute of Conservation, Photographic Material Group. I had the chance of attending to the magnificent conference and the opportunity of visiting different studios in Conservation of Photographic Materials as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MoMA and The Better Image while seen some familiar faces and making new colleagues professionally and personally.

During the earlier days of the conference, 18th and 19th February, there were collaborative workshops as Salted Paper Printing Workshop instructed by Northeast Document Conservation Centre Conservators, Hands on Working WIKI event by Stephanie Watkins and Using the Target-UV: Introduction and Demonstration instructed by Paul Messier and Jennifer McGlinchey Sexton at the Weissmann Preservation Centre. This last one was one hour demonstration providing an introduction to the principles and use of the Target-UV system for UV-Visible documentation of photographs. UV Target has been developed to in order of document not just photographs, but any material under Ultraviolet wavelengths. The information obtained could be invaluable while keeping records during loans and auctions as well as to help dating paper, due to the brightening agents added on paper and photographic paper during the history. During the workshop we were able to observe the recommended imaging workflow for the Target-UV including white balance, intensity, image capture and post processing and to analyse the great results. Additional documents were provided in order to follow the same ‘standards’ (the project is working towards standardization).

Target UV slide

Target UV slide

In addition there were different programmed tours as, a whole day tour of Harvard Lab going trough Harvard art Museums, Straus Center for Conservation and Weissmann Preservation Centre. The receptions took place in the Lamont DuPont Copeland Gallery at Pusey Library around the last exhibition Historic Evolution of Salted Paper Prints from Harvard University Library Archives and at the Massachusetts Institution of Technology Museum where showcases of objects and photographs inspired all of us with the possibilities offered by the combination of science and technology.

The lectures during both days covered the conservation of different photographic techniques used in the whole history of photography, with just over 150 years of history there are more than 40 different standardized techniques recorded and many experimental methods that we keep discovering.

Some of the lectures focused in more contemporary photography, as Characterization of Inkjet Output Media…or How to Hit a Moving Target by Monique Fisher from the NEDCC. In her paper, Monique discussed the unknown definition of permanency when referring to inkjet prints. Nevertheless these images are making their way into archives, libraries and museums and it is important to have an in-depth understanding of the main factors that impact their permanency. Based in a collaborative project, one of the most important sides of conservation from my point of view, Monique proposed to create a database of the many commercially available inkjet papers and their different properties such as thickness, weight, texture, finishes, coatings, optical brightening agents, and types of substrates were examined and characterized to understand and their deterioration characteristics and look for trends.

Database of Inkjet Papers

Database of Inkjet Papers

Another lecture which focused in a more historical photographic technique was presented by Mike Robinson and Edward P.Vincenzi discussing A Twin Paradox: A Study of Preservation and Disfigurement on Southworth and Hawes Daguerreotypes. The paper went through the history and methodology involved in the creation and use of daguerreotypes and it moved to the new mechanism that accounts for the white haze disfigurement in this type of plates. For the first time a daguerreotype has been imaged and analysed using scanning electron microscopy and X-ray microanalysis and the results had lead to replicating the deterioration in modern daguerreotypes for a deeper understanding. This is a great advance because the study considers new factors of damage which could reduce the hazing in daguerreotypes, problem that had been considered untreatable until this moment.

Haze in Daguerrotypes

Haze in Daguerrotypes

To conclude I would like to mention a series of tributes which were presented to remember some of the greatest conservators in the field of photographic materials who aren’t between us any longer. With special affection I want to mention Angel Fuentes De Cia, my first mentor in the conservation of photographs and the reason why I am in this field at the moment. He was the soul of photographic conservation in Spain but most importantly, he was a strong and passionate person, with a loving and humble character and magic in his eyes and words which always seem to look at further away than the others… maybe that was the reason of his special connection with photographs.

Marta Garcia Celma

Icon Intern Photograph, Paper and Preventive Conservation.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Edinburgh


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