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  1. #1
    winger's Avatar
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    Rescuing antique photos

    At my late grandmother's house, there had been a water leak that wasn't discovered for a few hours and not all of the damage was seen even then. Leaning on a wall where the water leaked was a trifold photo frame containing photos taken in the 30s (I think) of my grandmother (in the middle) and her two sisters. The photos got slightly wet and it wasn't found until they were dry. They've adhered to the glass in spots. Luckily, the spots aren't on any of their faces, just the background. What's my best method for getting them out without adding too much more damage? These are so far the only copies found and there are many descendants of the three who will love to have a great reproduction. The way the frame opens is the back slides down (probably the worst to deal with in this case).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails _IGP4482-crsm.jpg   _IGP4489-crsm.jpg  

  2. #2
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    Here's my guess:

    1) Copy before you do anything.
    2) Soak in clean, distilled water until it comes loose on its own. Add some PhotoFlo if necessary.
    3) Dry and flatten as you would any other print, except being extra careful.
    4) Once you have the photo safe, make at least two more duplicates. Make one traditional duplicate and one digital duplicate.

    Try to remove the picture and the glass from the frame as one unit and soak the glass and photo until they come apart without peeling or pulling. Hopefully, once the paper soaks through, they'll just "float" apart on their own.

    If you can't get the glass and the photo out as one unit, consider sacrificing the frame. Pull it apart, break it or cut it instead of risking shear or pulling force on the photo.

    That's all I can think of.
    Last edited by Worker 11811; 04-12-2011 at 11:04 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    Randy S.

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  3. #3
    Scheimpflug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by winger View Post
    What's my best method for getting them out without adding too much more damage? These are so far the only copies found and there are many descendants of the three who will love to have a great reproduction.
    If they are important photos, then regardless of how you attempt to get them out, I would suggest making copies of them first before you even try to remove them.

    Taking photos of them individually (such as on a copy stand) would probably work best, as you could control the lighting to reduce or eliminate glare. You could try putting them on a flatbed scanner though as well.

  4. #4

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    I agree with the other folks. First, do no harm. Copy them as they are. Worker's advice to soak them loose seems like your best bet after that. Do it soon or mold will set in.

    Peter Gomena

  5. #5
    Worker 11811's Avatar
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    My brother's apartment building burned down about a year ago. (Some drunk a$$hole in another apartment fell asleep with a cigarette in bed.)
    It was a strange scene. The place was literally reduced to ashes but there were pockets of things that were barely scorched or even in perfect condition. We went in to salvage anything we could find. Inside the bottom drawer of a charred bedroom dresser was his photo collection. The boxes were scorched but many of the photos inside were intact.

    We were able to recover 80% of his photo collection. Many of the ones that were damaged got scanned, digitally restored and reprinted.
    I soaked a lot of the photos apart in clean water with a drop of PhotoFlo added.

    Mind you, these photos were all traditional gelatin/silver photos, no older than about 1980 or 1970.
    If they are alternative process (Kalitype, etc.) all bets are off.

    If your photos are no older than about 1930 and they are in otherwise good condition with no mold or discoloration, careful treatment with water should do it.

    Alternatively, you could try carefully steaming them off the glass.
    Randy S.

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    http://www.flickr.com/photos/randystankey/

  6. #6
    holmburgers's Avatar
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    You could put out a call on the Yahoo! Photo Conservation group, but I think Worker's advice is sound.

    You probably can't soak them for too long, that is, don't try to separate them from the glass too early.
    If you are the big tree, we are the small axe

  7. #7
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    After copying them, I'd soak the photo+glass in as shallow water as necessary to cover the paper. A deep tray might cause the dry paper to float and the glass to sink ripping it apart. No rush or harm in a good long soak, IMHO.

    Normal methods for drying FB paper apply.

    If it's been touched up on the print, the soaking might harm that, depending on how the touchup was done, thus an interest in copying it.

    That's a nice trifold frame, but something with a window mat would be better for the future to keep the photo off the glass.

  8. #8

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    hi bethe

    sorry about your troubles ..
    i have had similar problems .. but not really
    i had glass get so hot it got stuck on the photograph
    randy's advice is good, a long soak in warm water with a
    tiny bit of photoflo ...
    i ended up just leaving the photo stuck to the glass

    good luck !

    john

  9. #9

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    Here's a tip from developing and printing years ago: Copy first, like so many have written here. Remember that these old papers were not resin coated and the gelatin emulsions were relatively thick. What has happened is that they have dried while stuck to the glass.

    Soak them loose with distilled water. Now, the wet prints will have to be dried so that they do not wrinkle. In addition, if the pictures were meant to be glossy, one will need ferrotype tins to dry them on--or an old-fashioned print dryer. Put the prints on the tins emulsion side down and gently roll out all the air bubbles with a rubber roller. Don't ask me why, but prints did not stick forever to ferrotype tins, but tended to peel off as they dried, leaving a glossy surface.

    If they are meant to be semi-matte or matte finish, simply dry them, pressed between something that they will not stick to. Most portrait and double-weight papers would have been in this category, but not all.
    Geo.

  10. #10
    winger's Avatar
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    That's a nice trifold frame, but something with a window mat would be better for the future to keep the photo off the glass.
    The frame has the photographer's name on the back, so I'm fairly sure they've been in the frame since the 30s, too.
    I do intend to go from least destructive on up and start with photos and, um, scanning maybe, and then try to separate them. I don't even know if I can get the photos out of the frame with the glass - the glass may be attached to the frame edges for all I know. I know I won't be rushing it - I won't get a lot of time or chances to work on them as it is and they've been sitting this way since last summer or so.

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