Who needs Photoshop? 👀
Our conservation team has been hard at work taking care of our historic photograph collection, dating from the 1880s onwards. And taking care of them is a big task...
For example, this black and white photographic print of a London pub bar had become firmly stuck to its corresponding negative. This was because the negative was releasing vapours as it degraded which, in turn, made the photographic emulsion (comprised mainly of gelatine) tacky.
Once dried, the adjacent layers of gelatine had bonded, making handling hazardous, which resulted in the photograph being torn.
The conservation team got to work by slowly peeling off the fragment stuck to the negative by reversing the bonding. This technique involved introducing water vapour to re-soften the gelatine layers, allowing them to separate.
Some fragments of emulsion remained stuck to the negative or were lost in the process due to the delicate nature of swollen gelatine.
Finally, the photograph halves were pressed to dry and repaired, revealing this mystery pub's bar in all its doily-clad glory once more!
Learn more about the team's project to conserve more than 4,000 photo negatives: https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/gunpowder-vinegar-and-photo-negatives