Care and Handling of Photographic Materials

This workshop discusses how to identify photographic processes as well as the structure, composition and format of a broad range of photographic materials. Agents of deterioration and mechanisms of deterioration are covered, as are proper storage and handling techniques for photograph collections. Ways to minimize potential damage and information loss in an emergency or disaster are also included.

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • identify and explain differences in structure, composition and format of various types of photographic materials
  • identify agents of deterioration and understand the mechanisms of deterioration
  • implement proper handling and storage procedures for photographic collections as well as select appropriate housing enclosures and storage materials
  • develop some understanding of salvage and recovery procedures for photographs following a disaster


Structure, composition and formats

Understanding the composition and structure of photographic materials in order to identify types and formats of prints, negatives and transparencies. This will serve to facilitate the identification of photographic processes.


Why and how photographic materials deteriorate, including inherent chemical instability, physical damage, biological attack and adverse environmental conditions. Common deterioration problems and how to recognize them. Remedial actions that can be taken to slow down or stop deterioration.

Storage, handling and display

Proper storage conditions, including temperature, relative humidity, light, pollution levels, types of storage rooms and storage containers. Procedures to minimize physical and chemical damage, including protecting the surface from oxidizing agents during exhibition and when researchers handle the photographs. Examination of existing international technical standards and recommendations by experts in the field.

Disaster recovery

Procedures for the safe recovery of photographic materials from water damage and other disasters. Minimizing potential for damage during the salvage and recovery operations.

Target audience

Curators, collections managers, conservators, archivists and other personnel responsible for the preservation of archival materials.


English, French

Enrollment limits

Minimum 10, maximum 20


Two days

Special requirements

  • Meeting room
  • Projector
  • Screen
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