Photographs and negatives are composed
of three different parts or layers:
a support base, a binder, and image material.
- The support for a photographs or negative may be glass (glass plate negatives), a plastic
film (slide negative), metal (a daguerreotype), paper (a photo
print), or a resin-coated paper (a digital print). Some plastic
negative bases are inherently unstable and will have a negative
effect on the life of the image.
- The binder layer or emulsion holds the final image material to the support
and is most commonly gelatin but may also be albumen, collodion,
or another material.
- The final part of a photograph is the
image producing material, often
silver particles, color dyes, or pigment particles suspended
in the emulsion layer.
Working with big photo collections:
- Consult a conservator early on.
- Wear gloves to handle negatives.
- Store in conservation safe materials.
- Take extra precautions with nitrates.
Photographs and negatives are generally
cared for by paper conservators or those who have specialized
in photographs and negatives alone.
Care of Nitrate
and Acetate Film
Caring for Photographs
Scanning Tip Sheet
Imaging Project Documentation
If you have any questions, ask
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