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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Old Framed Photo Yields a Surprise Underneath!

    Sometimes a preservation project can provide new treasures. Fellow blogger Joanne Schleier at Keeper of the Records wrote recently asking for suggestions about how to handle a special framed photograph of her mother. The frame itself, Joanne explained, was made of wood, handmade and etched by her mother’s first grade “boyfriend.” Joanne was considering scanning the original photograph and reframing a new copy to enjoy on the wall. The original photograph she planned to store archivally.

     What a great treasure! Joanne had the right idea to preserve the photo by scanning and archival storage, and I offered a few more suggestions for her consideration.

    Joanne wondered if she should scan the photo and the frame. . . a great idea! Her photographic record of the complete artifact was a good record for reframing. As it turned out, the frame has an obvious top and bottom, but if the decoration had been confusing as to its orientation, a photo would help her restore the original as intended.

    I suggested that Joanne first scan the entire framed picture. With that in hand, she could carefully remove the photograph from the frame and scan the photo itself. Joanne went one step further and also scanned the reverse side of the photo preserving the handwritten notation she found. In addition, when she removed the photo, she found another picture underneath! The original framed photo and the photo she found are the subject of Joanne’s blog post What a Surprise and well worth seeing.

    Framed photographs pose several possible problems –

    • moisture can enter the object and be caught between the glass and photo, or glass and backing causing mildew or mold
    • the material used for backing or padding between the photo and the actual back of the frame can be highly acidic and discolor or damage the photograph
    • the frame itself may be made of an unstable or damaging material, such as cardboard or wood
    • sunlight shining on the framed photo can seriously fade the image and degrade the paper
    • likewise, heat from a nearby radiator or  heater can damage both frame and photo causing warping or shrinking

    One solution is to scan the original photo and reframe a new print. The original can be stored in an archival folder or box and preserved. Another solution is to scan the original, but carefully returning the original to the frame with proper archival materials for backing, matting, and glass, in much the same way a framer might display a fine print.

    Joanne’s interest in preserving this special family treasure yielded yet another treasure, which seems like a pretty good incentive to examine old framed photographs carefully. You can visit Joanne and see photos of her project at Keeper of the Records.


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    Reader Comments (1)

    I was delighted to discover your site. I am the person of whom your write! The curator of 25 bankers' boxes of archival letters, photos, documents, and artifacts beyond count. I recently had several very large photos and documents, too large to fit into a scanner. A photographer friend photographed them at super high resolution. I, too, found a wonderful gift on the back side of a 100 year old photo that my grandmother had displayed in her home her entire life. You can read about it at this post on my site: (Hidden Message Behind Women's Work, if the link doesn't work). I made copies to share and display on my photo wall.

    I decided not to return the original to its old frame for the reasons you mention above, and have it in an acid-free storage box with other oversize photos.

    February 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Gartz

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