Glassine envelopes - better or worse than nothing?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by BradS, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. BradS

    BradS Member

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    So a retired professional gave me a whole pile of envelopes that look like they're made of wax paper - kinda. I think that this stuff is called "Glassine"?

    Anyway, I wonder if these are better than nothing ? or are they worse?

    That is, I realize they're not the best practice but, right now, I just store my LF negatives in the original film boxes - nothing more. Would using the glassine be better or worse? How?
     
  2. KenM

    KenM Member

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    I use glassines for my 4x5 negs, and for my 645 negs. I like them, but they don't work so well when making contact prints, since you have to remove the negs from the sleeves. But, that's a small issue. I'm not a fan of the poly sheets, since I've had negs stick to the poly. No damage was done, but it's a bit disconcerting when you're trying to get a neg out, and you really have to tug on it to get it out....

    If it's any consolation, I know of two photographers who, between them, have probably close to 50-60,000 negatives stored in glassines.....
     
  3. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    Glassine is a long-established product, and, like paper, is available in acid-free grades for high-quality conservation work.
    I can't see any problem, particularly as one would expect a retired professional to have bought the correct product for photo purposes.
     
  4. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I use glassine envelopes. They protect the negs and it's easy to get negs in and out of the envelopes. It is generally considered good practice to put the negatives in with the emulsion side facing away from the seams.

    To standardize storage somewhat, I use medium format sized sleeves for medium format and 35mm negs, and I use 4x5" for 4x5" and 2x3" sheet film. Larger than that, I generally use the size that fits the format but I haven't settled yet on a solution for 7x17".

    I don't particularly like the plastic sheets, and I don't like proofs made with the negatives in the sheets, because they aren't sharp.
     
  5. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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  6. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Edward Weston's negatives were stored in glassine until they were moved to Tucson. They have not suffered, or at least they had not when I saw some at Coles about 15 years ago.
     
  7. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i worked for a portrait photographer who had negatives from the 30s and 40s in glassine.
    i was there in 88-89, and the glassine still looked like new.

    i have tons of prints and negatives in glassine, and stored in archival shoeboxes ( or film boxes ).
    the film boxes were purchased from kodak ( with unexposed film in them ) the shoeboxes
    were purchased from gaylord brothers they are an archival supplier for libraries, archives and museums.
     
  8. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    Uh oh!

    Guess I better run and remove the old negs from the glassine envelopes from my father!

    " Glassine enclosures are not recommended. Glassine paper is made with short, brittle wood pulp fibers, which are prone to rapid decay. Often in the pulp are additives which increase the flexibility and translucency of the paper. Therefore, glassine has three sources of potential harm to photographs: possible impurities from wood pulp, possible harmful additions, and deteriorating paper fiber."


    Obviously another case of an expert expounding without looking at the empirical evidence.
     
  9. greybeard

    greybeard Member

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    While my preference is for the now-discontinued Kodak Mylar sleeves, I have negatives in various formats that have been stored in glassine envelopes since the 1960s, and many of them spent most of that time in the attic of a barn in Alabama. I have yet to notice any effects attributable to the glassine stock, which came from a variety of sources and was purchased "over the counter" with no brand name associated.
    (Some of the envelopes have gone from near-white to almost coffee brown, but the negatives seem to be fine.)

    A few negatives stored in ordinary office-type envelopes suffered from mold, mildew, and insect damage, and the rest were apparently thrown away, so it would appear that the answer to the original question is: yes, glassine envelopes are much, much better than nothing!

    (And the worst is probably low-grade, heavily plasticized polyvinyl chloride, which can sort of dissolve both negatives and prints....)
     
  10. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    I used glassine sleeves and envelopes to store negatives back when that was the only material available, and I still use them from time to time. I have 50 year old negative that have held up fine (and some 40 year old color negatives that are still printable) while stored in glassine. Some of my negative have deteriorated, but I can't blame the glassine - my poor methods many years ago are a more likely reason. Glassine is probably the least of my worries about negative storage.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The Albright article linked above is certainly interesting. I'd like to read more from other sources before deciding to give up on glassines, but it has me thinking.
     
  12. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I would look up curatorial staff at art museums to find out what they use. Be just as interesting as Albright's article, especially if they have a sizable collection.
    - thomas
     
  13. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    FWIW, I have been told to keep the emulsion side of the neg away from the glue used to seal the glassine envelopes.

    Vaughn
     
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  15. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    Glassine is an archival no-no. All our negatives at the Oregon Historical Society are resleeved in simple archival paper negative sleeves. Write any info on the sleeve in pencil. The source is Metal Edge.

    http://www.metaledgeinc.com/

    Peter Gomena
     
  16. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    ^^^
    Peter - I don't doubt your opinion, but Googling "glassine" produces a lot of information concerning "archival" glassine, which seems accepted and used by many responsible conservators.

    I have negs from my late Father which have been in glassine since the early 1950's. He was also a keen philatelist and I have covers and mint postage stamps in glassine from the same period.

    In any event, I really would not rely on some of the polythene and plastic storage products which have been marketed in recent years. Proper acid-free paper is a much better option and has been proven....the "simple" solution which you use.
     
  17. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    "Many commercially available enclosures are labeled "archival" or "acid-free". However, some of these same items may contain lignin, dyes, sizing agents, coatings, plasticizers, or other harmful additives. Never use enclosures made from unprocessed woodpulp paper, glassine, or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to house or store photographs. Avoid products made from colored papers because they often contain dyes or inks that are unstable and will migrate or bleed onto photographs or otherwise adversely affect the photographs stored within. For an enclosure material to be completely safe it must meet or exceed the specifications in the latest revision of ISO 18902 including the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) ISO 18916. Purchase enclosure materials from a reputable supplier. "

    from http://www.loc.gov/preserv/care/photolea.html

    "The museum lost 1/2 its unmounted glossy photographs because their glassine envelopes cockled: this underlines the need for correct storage in the first place."

    Harrison, A W. (1979). Conservation of library materials [clip no. 10]. APLA Bulletin; 43 (1) July 79, 7, 43(1)

    - Randy
     
  18. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    My oldest negatives were stored in glassine sleeves and I remember reading that glassine wasn't considered archival, so I switched to polypropylene sometime in the early 80's. The older glassine stored negatives date from the 70's and in some cases the glassine developed splotchy brown spots, some overall darkening, and some rippling. Maybe some glassine is better, but I wouldn't trust it.
     
  19. Sal Santamaura

    Sal Santamaura Member

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    Read Chapters 13 and 14 of Wilhelm:

    http://www.wilhelm-research.com/book_toc.html

    If you have limited time, start with page 502. Unless you have no interest in passing things down to your progeny, dump the glassine!
     
  20. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Here are a few more citations:

    A posting from a conservator generally agreeing with the Albright article--

    http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/cdl/1998/0366.html

    A posting from a publisher challenging views like the one above--

    http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/cdl/1998/0409.html

    A description of a project for preserving printed illustrations in glassine envelopes (pro-glassine, but not about photographs)--

    http://aic.stanford.edu/sg/bpg/annual/v18/bp18-14.html

    I found another post from Luis Nadeau suggesting that cyanotype images hold up better in acid paper, and can fade in alkaline buffered paper. Of course the paper base might not do so well in acid paper.

    So it seems like there's enough doubt that I will look into other options that function like glassine sleeves. I don't like file pages or binders or the kind of soft plastic that adheres to negatives. It's about time for a major reorganization at some point, since I have negs from different periods organized in a couple of different ways, and that would be a good opportunity to re-sleeve and do some re-proofing along the way to standardize things a bit more.
     
  21. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I use 4-fold (no glue) paper envelopes found here...

    http://www.conservationresources.com/Main/section_5/section5_05.htm

    ...for all my sheet film. Since the envelopes open completely, there is no sliding of the neg to get it out. The disadvantage is that they must be unfolded to see the neg...this is somewhat offset by the ability to write in pencil on the envelope to identify what is inside. I double and triple up the negs in the envelopes if they are copies or close to copies of the same image...with similar paper inbetween the negs.

    Vaughn

    PS...David, if you have any questions, or would like a sample, let me know. (I have no other connection to the company other than using their products.)
     
  22. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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    I have my Dad's negatives from as far back as 1931, stored in Glassine, and in birch boxes. The products were Neg-A-File. All the negatives look good. Wish I could buy some more of those boxes - thry are great!
     
  23. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    http://www.2spi.com/catalog/photo/negafile.html
     
  24. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    I've Adox 120 negatives from 1961 in Gassine and
    stored any which way. All look great. I've chucked
    what all of the Plassstic was bought. Savage for
    Glassine. Dan
     
  25. ttok

    ttok Member

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    RPS Plastine polypropylene 35mm preservers

    Does anyone know where to obtain some RPS Plastine 35mm negative preservers? I have been looking for these for a couple of years. Adorama no longer carries them, RPS no longer imports them from their manufacturer in Japan. Both still stock the 2-1/4 X 2-1/4 and larger sizes. I have the file cabinet for this size of preserver and do not want to use glassines.

    Does anyone know where a stash of 20 or so packs of these preservers would be hiding out?

    Thanks!

    A.T.
     
  26. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Better than nothing, but I prefer the archival pages simply because it is easier to handle them and make contact prints with them.

    Steve