Honour Board from the Unley Baptist ChurchHonour board conservation, Unley Park Baptist Church, Unley Park, South Australia

Original photographs hold emotional value and connect us to the past through materiality and subject matter. Artlab has a proud history of assisting private clients, collectors, historical societies and institutions to significantly connect with stories of the past.

We work with curators from the major cultural institutions in South Australia to achieve the best storage and display practices for their collections of historical and contemporary photographic works and are available to consult with clients about the preservation of photographs and suitable conservation treatments.

Photograph conservation requires identification of process and material stability while valuing the visual integrity of an image.

The historical canon of permanent photographic image began commercially in the 1840s with the advent of the Daguerreotype, a cased photograph on metal, and Calotype, an image on a paper support. Other cased photographs include ambrotypes and tintypes housed in leather covered and velvet hinged enclosures.

There are multiple types of photographs on paper-based supports including silver gelatine photographs, albumen, silver dye bleach images (commonly called Cibachrome),   chromogenic prints (coloured photographs), and more contemporary digitally printed images including ink-jet technology. Photographs can have added coatings or hand colouring. Negatives on glass plates, images on opaque glass (opaltypes), plastic or canvas are other photographic substrates.

As photographs are multilayered, industrially-made objects, they can be very difficult to restore to a flawless surface once they have been damaged by physical, chemical or environmental influence. Preventing damage is essential and can be achieved with precaution. However, photographs have often been poorly housed, stored, handled or displayed, or damaged by unforeseen disaster. The goal of conservation treatment is to prevent further damage and sustain the longevity of the image and adjoining materials such as frames, albums and cases.