Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mathew Brady's Civil War photographs

Mathew Brady is probably the most famous photographer associated with the American Civil War.  The UVa Small Special Collections Library has a small collection of the photos, mounted on individual cards.

The photos are kept in climate controlled storage, but the box they were in was a little too big and allowed the photos to warp.

Not good.  But fixable!
First, the photographs are humidified between two layers of Gortex, to relax both the cardboard and photograph layer.
Then it is time for my old favorite technique, the "back and wrap" which is great for stabilizing individual items.  The flattened photograph is placed on a piece of mat board that is slightly larger.  Since each photograph is labeled on the back with the number and title of the photograph, plus Brady's copyright warning, I photocopied the backs of the photographs, cut out the labels and adhered them to the back of the mat board.  I also wrote the call number on each one.

The photo and mat board are placed face down on a piece of Mylar and the corners of the Mylar are trimmed away. 
The Mylar is wrapped around the edges of the board and secured with double stick tape.  A neat package that buffers the photograph from environmental shifts, provides enough stiffness to keep the cardboard from warping, and the Mylar protects the photograph from scratches, fingerprints and dust.

A neat little package that makes it possible to handle the photographs more safely!

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