Photograph Conservation

Photograph Conservation

rolled photographs



The Weissman Preservation Center offers a range of preservation services for photographic materials — prints, film-based negatives, glass-plate negatives, lantern slides, daguerreotypes and other cased photographs, and photograph albums, among others. The types of services include:

Preservation assessments

Do you have photographs in your collection, but you are unsure about how to preserve them? The WPC staff will make a site visit to your repository to help you determine the types of photographic materials you have and what their needs are in terms of storage, handling, cataloging and treatment. This service is a good first step in developing preservation priorities for your photograph collections.

Condition surveys

A condition survey is an essential tool for assessing the stability of individual items and prioritizing treatment or housing activities. A survey is a systematic activity in which the condition of each photograph in a collection is noted on a custom form or spreadsheet. The survey is especially useful for small to medium size collections (fewer than 5,000 photographs) that have been selected for exhibition or digitization projects.

In some cases, a condition assessment may be more appropriate for a collection. Less formal than a survey, an assessment may flag photographs for treatment or custom housing, but does not provide condition notes for each item.

Preservation Services link to contact the WPC about a photograph collection survey or assessment.

Conservation treatments

Conservation treatments are performed on photographs primarily to stabilize them for access and to prevent further damage or deterioration. Treatments often lead to an improvement in image legibility and aesthetics. They can be done on single items or on batches of similar material. Examples include: flattening rolled prints, mending tears, consolidating flaking image layers, surface cleaning, repairing cracked glass-plate negatives, tape removal, inpainting of losses, etc.

Preservation Services link to contact the WPC about photograph conservation treatments.

Archival housing of collections

Photographs stored in poor quality or inadequate sleeves, folders and boxes are at high risk for image deterioration and physical damage. The WPC's conservation technicians are adept at re-housing large collections of similar items as well as fabricating custom housings for unique items, such as cracked glass-plate negatives. They can also devise safe and space-efficient systems for housing dissimilar items that must be kept together.

Preservation Services link to contact the WPC about photograph re-housing projects.

Other resources

Harvard Collections

A Directory to Photographs at Harvard

Photographica: Research Guide for Photographs @ Harvard

Preservation White Paper: A Methodology for Surveying Photograph Collections

Discussion Group

HarvardPhoto Listserv: An email discussion group for activities and issues pertaining to photography at Harvard

  • Cataloging Historical Photographs in OLIVIA
  • Submitting New Records to the Daguerreotypes at Harvard Virtual Collection and Recommended Guidelines for Cataloging Daguerreotypes in OLIVIA