Sistan and 100yr+ old negs and plates
I have recently inherited over 100 years worth of family negatives and plates. I have noticed some of the older ones are oxidising and turning brown or white.
I have heard Agfa Sistan will stabilise negatives and prevent change.
Please can you tell me if using this is good and, how to use it (times, dilution etc.)
I think I might seek some advice from the British Museum or our Smithsonian Institute. Also, the conservation departments at the large museums in the USA might be able to help as well.
A couple of on-line reference resources that may be of help.
Image Permanence Institute is a nonprofit, university-based laboratory devoted to preservation research. (Check out the dew point and preservation calculators.)
Image Permanence Institute
Conserve-O-Grams are short, focused leaflets about caring for museum objects, published in loose-leaf format. While the entire library covers much more than photographs, the section on photos (#14) is comprehensive. Say what you will about the US National Park Service, they have been in the museum business for many years and represent a considerable body of skills, knowledge and experience.
NPS Conserve-O-Gram listing
IMO, you should do nothing to them except afford proper storage. Gelatin-Silver images (be they Glass, Nitrate, Acetate, whatever) should be stored individually in acid-free, buffered envelopes. Glass can be stored indefinitely at room temperature, relative humidity circa 30-40%. Nitrate and acetate can be stored at zero-degrees (F) or less. (Apparently deterioration is negligible if it's cold enough.) Other than silver (eg, color) probably calls for acid free, but NON-buffered.
They can be contact-printed to modern films, but the process is enormously labor intensive. Next best is a high-resolution digital scan. The resulting archive is something that can be distributed among the family. They will love you for it!
Great advice, well presented.
Digitize, and present the others to the museum? Will you be able to store the materials in the cold as suggested? Is the material important enough for a museum to desire to keep the images for generations to come?
While I can't answer to whether Sistan is a good idea, you could certainly duplicate them. Scanning is the easy/obvious first step (and it gets you easy distribution, not to mention multiple redundant physically distributed backups), but some good reproductions onto ortho film that you process archivally with sulfide toning will last for a very very long time.
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some plates and films are highly unstable.
i would keep them away, far away from any heat source
and try to figure out what exactly you have.
pre safety film is nitrate ( think moviehouse fire )
and wet plate negatives are nitrocellulouse ( think moviehouse fire )
dry plates and post 1930s safety film is stable and non flammable ...
museums often times suggest rephotographing the negatives
on modern film, or these days making a digital reproduction.
once you get a system down, it goes by pretty quick, i did something similar
a few years ago ....
good luck !
I'd be afraid to do anything with irreplaceable originals without knowing exactly how it will act now and decades down the road. We can cause more damage by trying to protect it. You/we don't even know what kind of base, emulsion, contaminants, or damage we are talking about at this point.
Would you have a local museum or universities you can bring your materials to and ask for an advise? Your film/plates has lasted many years already. I don't think this is urgent.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
I have just e-mailed the IPI for advice, should get back soon.
Anyway, what are the dilutions and times for Sistan, since I want to treat my new negatives so they last as long as or longer than the old ones.
Thanks for all your advice so far.
I think toning is meant to be more effective than Sistan or Ag-Guard. The idea is to replace the (quite reactive) metallic silver with something much less reactive, e.g. selenium or silver sulphide. If you do use Sistan, dilution is apparently critical and I imagine that the "right" concentration would vary with the quantity of silver present. Which might be quite different in old negs vs new, the older often being a lot thicker, being developed for lower-contrast printing techniques.
Ektachrome - As you're in the UK, I'd suggest giving the East Anglian Film Archive at the UEA in Norwich a ring. They've had quite a bit of experience in the conservation & restoration of films (mostly movies) and I'm sure someone would be able to give you good advice.