View Full Version : Archival reality. Were they lying to us?
1) From the moment that they started to sell plastic sleeves and pages we were told that glassine sleeves were NOT archival and our negatives would be ruined. I switched but never bothered to resleeve all the thousands of negative strips in my files. Some of them are nearing 50 years old. They've yellowed a bit but the negatives inside of them are still just fine. Were they just using scare tactics to sell us new sleeves?
2) When resin coated paper hit the market in the late '70s we were told that fiber based paper was more archival. The RC paper was designed for situations where you just needed a quick print, like at a newspaper. It was easy and it was fast. I decided to start using it for contact sheets, figuring that getting a stain or two over the years wasn't a big problem. Here we are 30 years later. All those old contact sheets look just fine. Was it just a matter of the paper companies really didn't know and were just covering their a$$?
3) We were told to never use rubber cement to mount prints. The sulfer (was it sulfer?) in the cement would stain the prints and the rubber cement would gradually lose its bond. We were supposed to buy an expensive dry mount press and use dry mount tissue along with acid free board. I recently ran across some newspaper page layouts I'd put together in the late 1960's consisting of photos printed to size and rubber cemented on poster board. Rub-on transfer lettering was used for the headlines and a blank white area on one page was left for a block of text. There's a double page spread of a several day long rock music POW WOW at the Seminole Indian Reservation, and a single page of a Jefferson Airplane concert at Pirate' World. The transfer lettering has dryed out, lost it's "stick", and is crumbling off the prints, but there's no sign of any discoloration from using rubber cement on the single weight fiber paper. Were they just trying to sell us acid free mount board, dry mount tissue and expensive mounting presses?
I've lost more negs and prints to dye fading than to non-archival storage.
My nonarchival mats have changed color more than my archival mats, so the investment in archival mat board save me time/money in the long run since I don't need to re-mat.
In many ways I agree with your sentiment. "Archival" can indeed be measured but what you are asking is different... does it really matter. In practicality, possibly not.
Business as usual. I trust 100% all those issues we're true and logical. The Business part is the Quality of materials. Reducing the "risk" has its price.
Don't forget, Archival is minimum 100 years (IMO). 30 and forty years is long, but not archival... yet :-)
Negs in glassine sleeves at my house still look fine, and the earliest date to the late '60s. On the other hand, friends who kept slides in vinyl sleeves in binders have all sorts of problems -- there are many different kinds of 'plastic' pages and some are deadly.
Some prints that had data written on them in pen have problems, as does anything that was taped up somewhere.
Dark-stored prints from back then look fine, regardless of the paper, as long as the originals were properly washed and fixed. There are a few work prints that have gone brown or splotchy.
My engineer buddies call me a "late adopter." The newest car is a '93, there's no HDTV or Blu-Ray. I like to let others experiment with cutting edge products and stick with what I know works. :)
A big part of the photo industry is dedicated to selling new products. Sometimes the improvements are very subtle or non-existent, and sometimes a better solution comes along pretty quickly.
Happy holidays, Al & all.
1) I've got the same issue here and yes I cannot tell the difference between any storage medium from glassline to "archival sleeves".
2) Some of my RC prints have yellowed within 25 years but I just wonder if it was the way I washed them. Most of my RC prints are perfect. All my fiber based are perfect.
3) -In a old photo album I used rubber cement 50+ years ago. No change.
- Two old dry mounted photographs have separated from the backing after 20 years!! Pics are fine however, just like new.
-Some prints we have were dry mounted, matted and framed. The matting has discolored the photos quite significantly. The matting was not archival and about 20 years old.
I would still use archival materials anyway just to be sure.
I don't have answers, but am also interested in this subject. One more question: Does anyone have experiences to share about the archival effects of (lack of) e.g. selenium toning?
Supposedly putting a small amount of the selenium toner in the hypo clearing agent does the trick. I've done it on occasion. It seems to give richer shadows. I've never made matching prints with and without to find out if it works.
The problem is:
Do I have the luxury not to believe what I'm told about archivability and discover in 40 years from now what an idiot I was at the expense of thousands of ruined negs.
Of course, I'm talking about serious technology not the selling BS about inkjets lasting 300 centuries and all that crap.
I had once a very interesting mail exchange with a technology engineer from Kodak about archivability of my negs. Bottom line: B&W is stable. Pollution is a problem as the gelatin will absorb different gas traces from the air. If you want to reduce this absorbtion, you need to keep the negs in a cold and dry environment. The optimum is reached when you freeze them, but it's quite an operation. You have to control humidity and stuff. I once had the idea to buy a wine closet to keep them under controled conditions but well...
If someone is interested in all the mailing, send me a note, I'll try to find it and forward it.
In the early 1960's, before RC paper was invented, I had a simple darkroom in my little closet, and I'd swish the B&W fibre based prints around in the bathroom sink to rinse them. I'd shuffle them from the bottom of the stack to the top, and I'd run the water over them from the spigot. I was in my teens and these were surf photos...I never even considered how long they'd last, as long as I could show them to my buddies in the next coupla days. That was 45 years ago and those prints are all perfectly fine. In the 1980's I got more serious about photography, and printed a series for a gallery show using an archival procedure...selenium bath after the fixer, a pre-wash, and the final wash in this $400 (used price) archival print washer. Some of those prints developed brown spots (which I assume are fixer stains) less than twenty years after they were printed. As a result, I believe in the thorough hand wash of prints more than some hyped-up bubble action so-called archival washer. And it confirms my belief...darkroom work ain't rocket science.
I forgot to add: this gentleman told me that they discovered that light traces of Hypo (residual fixer) tend to increase the life of the image. That being said, He admitted that one cannot draw any operative conclusion for processing films and papers, and you better wash them good...
I'm 66 years old now. If I'm still around in 40 years to check on my negatives? Ha! I think I'll go take a nice warm bath in hypo clearing agent, add an ounce or so of selenium toner, followed up with a twenty minute rinse in running water from the shower. It's finding glassine jeans in my size that's the problem...
Sanmich, I've heard the same thing about a residual trace of hypo helping to preserve the image.
Here is a source of lot and lots of research on archival...
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