SLAGIAT: Using strong chemicals to clean photos

by Sally J.

in * How to PRESERVE Family History Treasures, Free Articles / Blog

SLAGIAT = “Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

In the past, conservators used poisons like cyanide and arsenic (!) to kill insects and other pests. Even though they didn’t always work. Eeeek. After apologizing for preaching to the converted, a conservator on a professional email list had this to say:

More than one of the chemicals that were considered safe early in my career have been discredited because many existing “approved” fumigation facilities were, in fact, unsafe, because the chemicals affected the chemistry of objects over time, or because there is continued off gassing from the treated object.

What seems like a good idea today may cause real harm in the long run.

This is precisely why I never recommend chemical solvents to clean prints or film. Even though professional photographers do this regularly. My argument is this: It might look better today, but what will happen 10, 50, 100 years from now? Better safe than sorry.

This is also why I urge you to wear cotton gloves when handling photographs. That fingerprint might not look so bad today, but it could start eating into the emulsion one day down the road.


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