Photographic & Paper Conservation
Photographic & Paper Conservation Unit
B-31 Olin Library
Photographic collections are present throughout the nineteen Cornell University Libraries and holdings number into the hundreds of thousands. Photographic prints and negatives are complex materials made from sensitive components and are easily damaged by a poor environment, rough handling, and poor quality enclosures.
The Photograph Conservation unit is responsible for the preservation of these materials on a collection and item level by:
- surveying print and negative collections to assess deterioration, and treatment, housing, and duplication needs
- executing major and minor treatments including cleaning, flattening, mending, and emulsion stabilization
- rehousing print and negatives collections in appropriate enclosures
- advising Library staff and the public on safe handling and care of photographic collections.
Two brochures were prepared in 2001 by the Photograph Conservation unit to assist the public in caring for their family paper and photograph collections, Preserving Your Family Photographs, and Care of Family Papers and the Home Library.
The Photograph Conservation Unit also conducts surveys, treatment, and housing of manuscripts, documents, maps, and photographic reproductions, such as blueprints. The unit has undertaken several special projects including The A.D.White Collection of Architectural Photographs. This was a major project undertaken by the Photograph Conservation unit in collaboration with the Department of Rare and Manuscript Collections. This collection includes over 12,000 19th and early 20th century photographs, primarily albumen, gathered by White in his development of Cornell’s school of architecture and added to over the years by University Librarian and professors. The collection of architecture, decorative arts and sculpture photographs, many large in size and suffering from years of use and then neglect, was cleaned, stabilized, and rehoused to conservation standards.
The Photograph Conservation unit conducted the conservation treatment and custom framing of the Cornell University’s Gettysburg Address. In preparation for exhibit in 2003, the condition of the Gettysburg Address was documented, minor condition concerns were treated, and the Address was rehoused in a custom mat and frame to conservation standards. The unit conducted a major research project into previous preservation efforts of the Address to aid in the long-term care of this important document.
The Photograph Conservation Unit also reviews grants at a state and national level and writes and executes grants in support of the preservation of Cornell’s collections. The Susan A. Douglas Collection of Political Americana was a collaborative grant project with the Rare and Manuscript Collections, funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, to preserve, catalogue and digitally image the collection. The unit organized, cleaned, treated, and rehoused over 7000 items (paper, glass, ceramics, metal, and textiles) in innovative, custom-made enclosures.
The Photograph Conservation unit participates heavily in exhibit preparation, both in-house and loans, by conducting condition review and conservation treatment, and establishing light level and duration recommendations. Care and handling sessions are given to Library staff and guidance is provided in digital imaging projects to ensure the safety of Library materials. Training students, technicians, and interns, giving seminars and workshops on the care of photographs and family papers, and serving as a resource for the public and professional colleagues are part of the unit’s education and outreach activities.
This unit is located in B-31 Olin Library and shares laboratory space with the Book Conservation Unit. The Photograph Conservation unit is staffed by Michele Hamill, Paper and Photograph Conservator. She received her MS in Art Conservation in 1991 from the University of Delaware/Winterthur Museum specializing in paper and photograph conservation. She is a Professional Associate of the American Institute of Conservation. For further information on this unit contact Michele Hamill at 607-255-5766 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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