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  1. #1
    winger's Avatar
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    Family negs - likely nitrate base

    I've mentioned in other posts that my paternal grandmother passed away 2 1/2 years ago at 97. My parents got the job of cleaning out her house (which had been occupied by family members since its beginning in 1832). Her father had done a lot of photography and my parents did find a relatively large number of old negatives, which they brought to me. I do have cool places to store them in this house, but we're about to move to Iowa. I doubt that it would be a good idea to put them in the moving truck or in what I'll be driving as it's summer and I won't have as much control over constant temp. I don't really have time to scan all of them before moving (there are probably at least a hundred and they don't fit current neg sizes).
    Some are from vacations (England, Matterhorn, Old Faithful, etc..) and many are family (slightly labeled, not all). Dates noted are mostly between 1900 and 1940ish. He was a fairly decent photographer.
    Is there any chance of there being a place I can store them 'til I'm back here? Should I just toss the early family history (oh how that would stab me in the heart) or just do as many as I can and toss the rest? They currently look to be in decent shape, but I read that that can change quickly and unpredictably.

  2. #2
    Truzi's Avatar
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    Don't toss them. Why not put them in a cooler in the vehicle your driving?
    Truzi

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    Chris Lange's Avatar
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    I would look at this and see what sort of feasible solution you can finagle.

    http://motion.kodak.com/motion/Suppo...rate.htm#nstor
    See my work at my website CHRISTOPHER LANGE PHOTOGRAPHY

    or my snaps at my blog MINIMUM DENSITY
    --
    If you don't have it, then you don't have it.

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    I don't think I'd chunk them. If you can't give them museum grade storage, so be it. But one thing's for sure--there isn't any archival storage in the landfill.

  5. #5
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    There is a good chance that many of them may not be nitrate base. There are tests you can perform to determine if they are nitrate or safety base. The simplest is to clip a tiny piece off the corner and expose it to a flame. Nitrate base film will burn vigorously, not sure what safety base film does. There may be other tests that don't involve fire. There are members here that have that info, and hopefully they will post soon.
    Happiness is a load of bulk chemicals, a handful of recipes, a brick of film and a box of paper. - desertrat

  6. #6

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    I also have a large stash of old negs from my great Uncle, but most of them do say safety film on the margin of the roll. Although some don't have any info at all. Managed to contact print the majority of them, from there was going to make contact negs of the best one's but have not got around to it yet.Better get going so as to avoid the situation Wingers in.

    Mike

  7. #7
    paul_c5x4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by winger View Post
    Is there any chance of there being a place I can store them 'til I'm back here? Should I just toss the early family history (oh how that would stab me in the heart) or just do as many as I can and toss the rest? They currently look to be in decent shape, but I read that that can change quickly and unpredictably.
    Contact your local museum service and/or library archive - Even family "snaps" from that long ago would be of historical interest to many. You may find that a local group would be prepared to transfer the images to a more stable base.

    What ever you do, don't just "toss 'em in the trash" - If nothing else, many areas regard nitrate film as hazardous waste.

  8. #8
    bsdunek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Truzi View Post
    Don't toss them. Why not put them in a cooler in the vehicle your driving?
    This is what I would do also. In fact, I take a film cooler when I travel for my fresh film. You can get one that plugs into your car, or use the cold packs instead of real ice. It will keep the moisture down. I don't think you'll find them that fragile. My Grandmother's negatives from 1900 on were stored in the farmhouse attic for years and they are fine. My Brother printed a bunch of them a few years ago with no problems.
    Bruce

    Moma don't take my Kodachrome away!
    Oops, Kodak just did!
    For all practical purposes, they've taken Kodak away.


    BruceCSdunekPhotography.zenfolio.com

  9. #9
    winger's Avatar
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    Thanks all! I did some googling for ways to test and found that a flame test (only nitrate base negs will burn down from the top and they should have a bright yellow flame) is the only one I'd be able to do here. If I still worked at the lab, I'd be able to do the diphenylamine test (we used that all the time for several things anyway). Unfortunately, I doubt I could get the chemicals necessary now.
    Once I figure out which are nitrate vs acetate, I think I will use the cooler idea. I had been thinking it was likely that all were nitrate, but now that I know that acetate was in use in the 20s, there's a good chance a bunch are that. Since he went for new things, he might have been likely to switch to acetate when it came out. Since very few look yellowed, it's tough to just guess. Only a very few have writing on the rebate as well. All are in single frame pieces and many look to have been cut slightly crooked. There is a huge variety of frame sizes and my dad has said that my great-grandfather tended to sell the last camera to buy the next newest, greatest one. The only ones of his that I have are a RB Auto-Graphlex and two Leicas. The largest negs looked like 4x5, but do not fit in 4x5 holders (even the old slotted ones). And none that I've seen so far have notch codes of any type (another way I'd be able to tell nitrate vs acetate). Was it possible he was cutting his own from larger sheets or were there film makers besides Kodak that weren't using notch codes?

    If I did toss them, I'd likely burn them, not just dump them in the landfill for the reasons above.

    Thanks again!

  10. #10

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    I'd scan all the negatives for archiving purposes and during the scanning process separate them into two piles: negatives worth printing and negatives not worth printing.

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