Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Photo preservation

Today, I have been reminded of how fragile our collections are. I went up to our storage room on the fourth floor where the bulk of our materials are stored to see about the Proof Collection, a subset of the Historical Image Collection. These photographic materials were minimally processed at some point in the past (read: placed in folders with titles like "Adminstrators" and "Medical Students" and "Research") but still needed work. We knew that the proof sheets needed to be put into Mylar sleeves to prevent damage, and we knew that we needed to get more intellectual control over the pictures (i.e., identifying the students and administrators by name on the inventory, listing what types of research activities are shown in the images).

So I thought, Hey! I'll just sleeve a folder of proof sheets each time I find myself up there, doing them one at a time to move the project along while
getting other tasks accomplished. I have a few words to describe my horror upon opening Folder One: Masking Tape. Paper Clips. Staples. Glassine negative holders. All of these things, eating into the proof sheets and their corresponding negatives. Unique photographic images that we do not hold in print format elsewhere in the Historical Image Collection, slowly being eaten by acids and marred by grease and bent around metal. It took me a full 30 minutes to properly house the handful of materials in that one folder.

I urge all of you amateur photographers to give serious thought to how you might be housing your pictures at home. We'll continue to work on our unprocessed images as fast as we can (given the ever-present constraints on time, staff, and supplies) to save the photographic history of OHSU--one folder at a time...

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