Cleaning film and glass plates prior to archiving.

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by roy, Nov 12, 2007.

  1. roy

    roy Subscriber

    Sep 7, 2002
    West Sussex
    Medium Format
    What tips are there for cleaning sheet film and glass plates (negatives) prior to archiving. Any suggestions regarding technique and materials would be appreciated.
  2. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

    Sep 20, 2002
    Before doing anything, make a copy that you can also archive. I have had experience with 100 year old glass plate negs made by my grandfather and stored in awful conditions. In my case, I have to confess to infidelity. I scanned the plates before using any kind of cleaner, including plain water. I was not as much concerned with preserving the plates as with keeping the images. Some of those will be seen in a coming issue of Goldenseal magazine of West Virginia.
  3. pgomena

    pgomena Member

    Jun 25, 2003
    Portland, Or
    Mr. Gainer is correct that you might not want to try cleaning them at all.

    Best of all cases is to make a contact print (or two) of the original, uncleaned negative before doing anything else. Then you have a master preservation print to archive.

    I've used an alcohol-based window cleaner to clean the back of glass plates before scanning. Negative on clean paper on a hard surface. Cleaner sprayed onto a soft cotton flannel cloth and then gently used to clean away grit and grime.

    These were mostly archived images that probably hadn't been cleaned in close to 70 years. There was so much crud on them that it made for very ugly scans. (Be very careful if you do this, that old glass is thin and brittle.) Be careful if the emulsion is badly deteriorated, bubbly, peeling, in which case emulsion bits might flake off.

    Be aware of any retouching to the back of glass negatives. Look for a thick, matte lacquer-like material with pencil marks on it. Don't clean those at all.
    Likewise do not touch or clean the emulsion side of the negative.

    Peter Gomena