Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2010 Newsletter

Before and After: Henry Peach Robinson photograph

Photograph. Click to enlarge.
Photograph. Click to enlarge.

Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901).
Bringing Home the May, ca. 1862-1863.
Albumen print.

The conservation department of the Ransom Center is responsible for the care and preservation of the Center's collections. This feature highlights repair and conservation work on collection items.

Before

Mounted on poor-quality, acidic board that was shorter than the print, the photograph was wrapped around the ends of the mount board, and the print was then framed, apparently soon after it was made. The photograph could not be safely handled for viewing or research purposes because the brittle mount and existing damage—tears, distortions, and areas of loss—put it at risk of further damage.

Prolonged light exposure from display (collector Helmut Gernsheim acquired the photograph from Robinson's daughter, who had it on the wall in her home) also contributed to the darkening of the paper, the yellowing of the albumen layer, and the fading of the silver image.

After

The old mount and adhesive were removed from the back of the albumen print, and the photograph was bathed in distilled water to reduce darkening and discoloration of the paper support that had resulted from acid migration from the old mount board.

The albumen print was mended and lined using a thin Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste and attached to a new mount of single-ply, acid-free board. The paper support of the albumen print is very thin, and the new mount provides physical support, particularly in the areas that had been previously damaged.

The lined and mounted photograph is housed in a window mat of four-ply, acid-free museum board. This provides physical protection and support for the photograph during storage, as well as during researcher use and exhibition.

This conservation treatment was carried out by Barbara Brown, Head of Photograph Conservation.

Learn more about the Conservation Department


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