Caring for glass plate negatives

The D’Youville College Archives has a small collection of glass plate negatives.  The techniques shown below provide a brief introduction in handling glass plate photographic material.  Note: These glass plates were small, with no cracks or breaks.  For information on the handling and storage of large and/or damaged plates, see Further Resources below.

Original storage enclosure

Original storage enclosure

Glass plate negatives were found in plastic sleeves. Plastic is a poor choice for glass negative storage. The plastic can have a static charge which will lift flaking emultions.

Damaged emulsion

Damaged emulsion

Flaking emulsion on the glass negative. In a glass plate negative, the glass is the base, which serves to support the emulsion. The emulsion contains the image. Flaking emulsion results in image loss.

Removing plate from original enclosure

Removing plate from original enclosure

Working with the emulsion side down, the plastic sleeve is cut along one edge and lifted off the plate. Which side has the emulsion? Generally, the emulsion side is dull and much less reflective than the base (glass) side.

Handling

Handling

Hold glass plates by the edges. Gloves are helpful in protecting emulsions from fingerprints.

Archival enclosure

Archival enclosure

Glass plate negatives should be stored in paper enclosures. Be sure that the enclosures have passed PAT (photographic activity test).

Identification

Identification

Write a description for the plate on the enclosure BEFORE enclosing the plate. For fragile materials such as glass plates, it is best to be as specific as possible in the description to avoid unnecessary handling of the object.

Storage

Storage

Place the glass emulsion side down on the enclosure.

Storage

Storage

Fold over the enclosure flaps. Do not press down on the glass plate.

Box

Box

Store glass plates on the long edge. Plates should be vertical and not slanted, leaning in any manner, or shift within the box. Use bolsters to maintain verticality and support.

Dividers

Dividers

Using foam core or other rigid divider every several plates will also provide support and maintain plate position.

Label

Label

Glass plates are heavy and fragile. Be sure to alert staff of box contents in clear labels.

Further Resources:

  1. Care of Photographs, Northeast Document Conservation Center.  Preservation leaflet 5.3
  2. How do I House Glass Plate Negatives?, National Archives.
  3. Photographs: Archival Care and Management, Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Connor.  Chicago: Society of American Archivist, 2006.


 

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