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Help re Old photos

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May 21, 2011, 2:49:06 PM5/21/11
My club has around 150 old framed photos going back to the 1890's.
Unfortunatey we dont have premises, so we have no walls to hang them
They are safely stored atm but all things deteriorate and I'm looking
to scan them and put them onto disc or whatever portable storage is
the rage these days so members and others can see them.
Problem is that to scan them properly without false images I need to
take them out of the frames.
I've been advised this is a risky thing to do as once and old photo is
removed from its [not hermetically] safe, sealed environment it can
deteriorate quite quickly.
I've then got to reframe the photos! [or put them in suitable neutral
plastic binders.

Has anyone done this, the removal and scanning bit, before and
identified all or some of the gremlins/don't do's ?
I would be very grateful for any advice [I've already advised myself

Henry Law

May 21, 2011, 6:52:51 PM5/21/11
On 21/05/11 19:49, TidewayUmpire wrote:
> They are safely stored atm but all things deteriorate and I'm looking
> to scan them and put them onto disc or whatever portable storage is
> the rage these days so members and others can see them.

Indeed so, and it would be good if you did so, but I for one would be
very uncomfortable with the idea that you would not then need the old
photographs. (Though you don't say that, I admit).

I have made something of a study of the longevity of digital "objects"
in the widest sense, and it's not as long as some people would have you
believe. Not only do digital storage media (DVDs, tapes, etc)
deteriorate, at rates and in ways that the industry doesn't understand,
but so also do the actual formats in which they are written, though it's
likely that JPEG will be around for some time yet. So by all means scan
the photographs and get them looked at, but keep the originals!

You write that you've received advice that "once an old photo is removed
... it can deteriorate quite quickly." If your advice is really
authoritative (museum photographic curator ...) then I bow to it, but
otherwise I'd say that paper of good quality, which is what photographic
paper was back in the day, is remarkably durable stuff, and the image
itself is made of silver* which doesn't deteriorate, though it may turn
brown in the presence of sulphide gases.

The programme "Who do you think you are" routinely shows people
consulting paper archives several hundred years old and finding them as
legible as the day they were written; my worry is that with modern
digital images and documents it won't be possible to make an episode of
it in, say, fifty years' time.

* Assuming a black-and-white image, of course.


Henry Law Manchester, England


May 21, 2011, 6:33:16 PM5/21/11
I suggest you try a few first on the scanner without taking them out of the
I have scanned some framed pictures with good results and no false images
from the glass, although if the frame holds the picture a long way off the
glass screen focus might be a problem.
If they are black and white pictures done in the traditional way (silver
oxide, rather than printed) the images should be quite stable and the only
problem if you remove them from the frames might be that the backing paper
has become fragile.

"TidewayUmpire" <> wrote in message

Carl Douglas

May 22, 2011, 7:25:52 AM5/22/11

It could be worth visiting:

Paper is vulnerable to deterioration through a range of chemical
reactions, & many more recent papers are particularly vulnerable due to
industrial processes introduced to meet commercial demand (e.g. sulphite
pulp). I suppose some photographic papers must be affected & may thus
be much more fragile than expected. I imagine their restoration would
be costly.

Negatives, if they exist, may already have deteriorated beyond recovery
- a big problem for cine film archives.

I'm sure Henry's right about the transience of digital media, not to
mention the means of reading them & the formats used.

Perhaps we need to go back to painting events & people in oils on canvas
or wood ;) ? This is a system proven to last a very long time but, even
there, restorers have a mixed record.

Reverting to the other discussion on decorated blades:
The problems include oxidation, discolouration & separation of the
varnishes used & the lifting of the egg tempera, gold leaf and other
materials used for the decorative lettering. The varnishes used were
typically based on drying oils (e.g. tung & linseed) which harden by
cross-linking but continue to react with oxygen, especially with the
help of UV which progressively damages those original bonds. Once
lifted from the underlying wood while still attached to the time-expired
traditional varnish, I'd imagine it is the devil's job to get the
decorative work to bond back onto the original surface without losing

If we're going to run a thread on rowing & restoration, perhaps we need
to consider ways to give extended lives & restoring the former youthful
looks of increasingly wizened old rowers?

Cheers -

Carl Douglas Racing Shells -
Fine Small-Boats/AeRoWing Low-drag Riggers/Advanced Accessories
Write: Harris Boatyard, Laleham Reach, Chertsey KT16 8RP, UK
Email: Tel: +44(0)1932-570946 Fax: -563682
URLs: (boats) & (riggers)


May 22, 2011, 11:53:01 AM5/22/11
> Email:  Tel: +44(0)1932-570946  Fax: -563682
> URLs: & Hide quoted text -
> - Show quoted text -

"restoring the former youthful looks of increasingly wizened old

To whom could you possibly be referring????


May 22, 2011, 11:57:11 AM5/22/11
> > 'Don't'!]- Hide quoted text -

> - Show quoted text -

Many thanks Henry, Edgar & Carl.
No - not the remotest intention of disposing of the original photos -
Thinking of several binders with acid free plastic sleeves or just
might donate to R&R Museum - if they will take them


May 23, 2011, 5:49:06 AM5/23/11
One solution to this problem is not to scan them at all, which as you
say has the potential for damage, but to re-photograph them (obviously
in a controlled set-up). My brother-in-law is a photographer, and says
this is quite a common thing to do in cases like this. Done properly,
it can be a better solution than scanning, as any surface
irregularities, folds etc are less of a problem. Furthermore, if you
are so minded, you can enhance the quality of deteriorated images
using Photoshop or similar software. I have actually done this myself
with some old family photographs of the 1920s, and the enhanced
results are amazing.

Cheers, Magnus

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