To remove or not to remove glued photos

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    • #132943

      Our historical society just acquired a collection that contains photos that are very securely glued into an old 1940’s album with those thick black paper pages. I’m torn between removing them or leaving them in the album, as I somewhat feel that the album as a whole has historical value. The way the photoes are glued on the pages (some overlapping others) makes it better to digitize by removing them.
      What would you do and what is the proper way to remove them from the glue? Peel? use scissors? I’m hesitant to destroy the album, but it may be the best choice in this circumstance.

    • #132951
      Lisa Foster

      At a previous museum, we had a large collection of scrapbooks with a tremendous amount of historical value that had not been properly cared for and had serious vinegar syndrome issues. They were deteriorating to the point that we HAD to disassemble them. However, before taking them apart, we copied each page the best we could and placed the copies in a three ring binder in the same order they were in the scrapbook in order to preserve the historical integrity of the collection. That way, if anyone ever wanted to go back and see exactly how the items were assembled in the scrapbook they could. This is the best solution I’ve found to preserving scrapbook collections that won’t last long if they stay in their current, original housing.

      I’ll let someone else better aquainted with archival preservation address your question of how to remove the photos from the scrapbook itself.

    • #132950
      Jane Dalley

      There are a couple of options available Brian, but first I would determine why the albums need to be dismantled, as they are a historic document in themselves. Depending on its age, the type of binding can provide information about how people stored and viewed their photographs at a given period in time and that gives the album a context it does not have when the photos are removed, particularly if there is writing on the pages. If deterioration is severe and the photographs need to be removed and treated, I suggest you scan the pages to the highest quality possible, according to nationally accepted standards in order to have a record of the original layout. The photos should be removed by someone trained and experienced in this type of work (e.g. photographic conservator). They can be scanned and copies put back in the orginal album (if salvageable) to preserve its original look. The originals can be stored separately in appropriate enclosures and conditions.

      Good luck,

    • #132949

      Thank you for valuable tips on caring for these albums.
      I’ll give you a little more background on this issue.
      The collection of photos and ephemera came from the family of a couple who opened a dude ranch in this area in the 1940’s. At the time, there was nothing out here. No water, electricity, or utilities of any kind. This area is now a community of 14,000 residents. They were the ones that started it all.
      In 2007, a descendant compiled their manuscript into a book on their experiences of building the dude ranch and selling property. To do so, she tore some of the photos out of the album to use in the book. Looking at the album after my original post, I am not sure salvaging the album is very important, especially since there is no writing in it and I noticed there is writing on the backs of the photos she tore out. So they may be of more value removed from the pages.
      The question is…do I remove all the residual paper and glue or take them out of the album and leave the residuals on the back of the photos?

    • #132948
      Susan Knoer

      Are the pages deteriorating, or likely to affect the photos? If not, then it’s a matter of convenience in viewing, and removing the photos is the issue. Start by finding out what kind of glue it is – not easy, but you can make an educated guess – rubber cement, paste, Elmers? They will all have different removal methods, and you can go from there. Remember that photographs from that period are very water sensitive and will while the emulsion will not be damaged per se, it will swell and warp if you don’t plan for treating it for that as soon as you remove the glue – generally drying between blotters and weighting them will work. If the photos are significantly older than the album, they may be made with different photographic processes.

      If the pages are going bad, it’s better to remove the pages from the photos – flaking or peeling it off the back. The less you bend the photos, the better, since that will lead to later deterioration. A microspatula is good for that , you can slide it under the photo and move it side to side to free it.

      Having said all that, if the only reason to remove the photos is to digitize, what about photographing the pages rather than scanning? That will give you the best of both worlds without worrying about getting out of the focal plane of your scanner.

    • #132947

      I also tend to say not to dismantle the album just because the pages may be acidic, unless there is a good reason to do it. If it is in a good shape now, there is no reason to think it will deteriorate more, being kept in stable conditions. From what I’ve seen, these kind of albums had the photos very well glued to them, so it is very difficult to separate them from the album without risking them. You shouldn’t try to put humidity to relax the glue, because the humidity may harm the picture itself, as said in another comment. And of course, as you said from the beginning, it’s not only the photos, it’s also the album as a whole that has an historical value. I guess the pictures don’ t overlap completely one on the other, so it could be digitized as it is?

    • #132946

      I have very good luck taking photos of photographs using a high resolution digital camera with micro capabilities which can be just as effective as scanning. This enables overlapped photos to be more accessible and the album is less stressed. A tri-pod is sometimes necessary, but most often it is not needed. I would not dismantle an album unless absolutely necessary.

    • #132945
      Ronald Heroux

      I inherited a similar album of photos (from the 1920’s-40’s) from my father which contained many family photos. As it was a personal item I did not have qualms about removing photos (moistening the black paper with water for several minutes – the photos readily peeled off). Several of the photos had writing on the back which identified people and events which I found valuable. I dried the photos between blotting material under heavy books to ward against curling. The effect was excellent.

    • #132944

      Thanks for all the excellent replies. This just goes to show that every challenge can have more than one solution. I will take all of the advice given and do what will work best in this situation.

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