Storing Glass Negatives in the Collections
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The Peabody’s collections consist of more than just specimens. Each division has a wide variety of paper and photographic materials that provide documentation for the collections. This documentation — in the form of field notebooks, plans, drawings, maps, photographs and slides, to name but a few — is extremely important as it provides valuable information about specimens in the collections.

Just as care must be taken to ensure the preservation of the specimens, care must also be taken to preserve collection documentation. Currently, the Conservation Laboratory is involved in a project to properly house all glass plate negatives in the collections.

Eventually many of these negatives will be transferred to an electronic medium so that they are readily available for staff and researchers.

Before the development of film, photographic negative images were made on a layer of gelatin on a glass plate. There are many of these glass plate negatives in the Peabody collections. Some are housed in acidic paper envelopes that are damaging the negative emulsions. Other negatives are loose or stacked on top of each other in drawers or boxes, as seen here, and the emulsions have become dirty, scratched and damaged.

Similarly, acidic index cards with information about the negative images were stored on top
of the plates. Over time they have become discolored and have damaged the emulsions.

With inappropriate or no protection at all, the emulsions have been scratched and damaged,
as seen on this negative, which is stained with fingerprints.

Collection by collection, these glass plate negatives are being cleaned and properly
housed. Loose dust on each negative, especially those not in sleeves or boxes, is
gently removed with a soft brush and small puffs of air.

The negative is then placed in a four-flap enclosure to protect the emulsion.

This enclosure is made from an acid-free paper.

These boxes keep the negatives upright and cushion them to minimize the chance of breakage.