Photographic materials cleaning and re-housing project

Our mini photographic materials conservation project is underway. I say mini, there is a lot of work to be done, but its not quite on the same scale as our Inspired by Knole project.  We don’t have a £18m budget for a start. We’re about two months in to the project now and we’ve made good progress.

The Knole photographic materials collection is in two parts:

Part A: a mixed collection of albums, loose prints, glass plate negatives and lantern slides which date from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Many photographs feature Lionel Edward Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville, his wife Victoria and daughter Vita, as well interior and external views of Knole. Several of our photographs were taken by Sevenoaks photographer Essenhigh Corke. It also includes some lovely personal scrap books that include photographs, annotations and watercolor sketches. The collection is a mixture of ownership by the National Trust and on loan from the Sackville family.

Some of our glass plate negatives, probably in their original packaging.

Some of our glass plate negatives, probably in their original packaging.

Part B: a new element of the collection, all items have recently been taken on loan from the Sackville family along with other contents from the Outer Wicket Tower rooms (new spaces we will be opening to visitors as a part of Inspired by Knole). Again it is a mixed collection of loose and framed prints, albums, carte de visites and cabinet cards, and cellulose negatives. They date from the late nineteenth century and early to mid-twentieth century and feature Edward Charles Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville (Eddy), his friends, and his family members, in particular his step mother Anne.

Condition of the collection:

A brief condition survey of Part A of the collection was carried out by Anita Bools (NT photographic materials advisor) in February 2012. Most of the objects looked at have been rated as follows: Condition = Fair Stability = unstable Treatment priority = desirable. A couple of the objects seen were rated poor and highly unstable. The collection has been kept in an environmentally controlled store room since the 1990s. Although some of the current housing of certain items is inadequate. A more in-depth condition survey of each individual item is required.

A more extensive survey of Part B of the collection was surveyed in December 2013 by photographic materials conservator and acting NT advisor, Sarah Allen. Overall condition of the collection has been rated as poor, stable / highly unstable and requires urgent treatment. The collection has been housed in a very poor uncontrolled environment for several decades, exposed to light, dust and there has been an active pest insect infestation.

The latest photographic materials taken on loan, in their previous storage location.

The latest photographic materials taken on loan, in their previous storage location.

So our mission is to condition asses every object in both parts of the collection.  Carry out basic cleaning and repairs, and identify those objects in need of more substantial conservation.  Then finally re-house the collection in the correct type of storage materials. We started off with sizing each object so we knew what type and size of storage housing to buy in for the collection. Now we have begun the condition assessments.

Every object is measured in mm and entered on the condition report spreadsheet.

Every object is measured in mm and entered on the condition report spreadsheet.

It is quite time consuming assessing each object, especially trying to identify each photographic process that has been used.  The more you see the easier it becomes to recognise the process.  Although we do have a little help to.

Two very useful reference books.

Two very useful reference books.

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Alex, Emily, Lucy, Melinda, Sarah and Zena

 

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