Tuesday, February 03, 2009

White Gold

One of my regular conservation tasks involves removing photos from old frames that can (and often do) cause damage to the original photographic print. Usually the damage comes from the acidity of the board used to back the photo, but sometimes the glass has trapped in dust and grime that stain the photo. Other times, the nails or tacks have rusted and discolored the paper. In one case, water damage had sealed the emulsion to the glass in a bond that would not be broken. I tried a few different techniques to separate them, but nothing seemed to work and all the materials I read seemed to agree that my efforts were probably useless.

Lesson of the day: matte your prints!

Fortunately most frame removals aren't so catastrophic.
Today I removed a World War I print from a 1920s-era frame after noting the dirty glass and acid-stained backing. Here's the scene, minus the photo itself:

It's always a treat to see what people used as backing for these photos. Any stiff paper will do, so from the 1950s on, most do-it-yourself framers used cardboard, which is extremely acidic and very damaging. But this framer used part of an old movie poster.

A little research turned up the name of the movie: White Gold. For those of you not immediately familiar with unsuccessful silent movies from 1927, here's one heart-stopping scene:

Now the question is: what am I supposed to do with a scrap from a 1927 movie poster?

p.s. - The secondary paper backing, which appears in the photo, seems to be wallpaper!

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