A Year in the Life of Audiovisual/Media Preservation in Illinois: Still Photographs and Photographic Formats

Jenny Dunbar, Archivist, College of DuPage​

Photographs were not always well regarded as historical documents. In the early stages of the development of archives, many archivists did not consider photographs as primary source material and relegated any visual material to a more subordinate position. Now, the value of photographs is appreciated, and they play a significant role in cultural heritage collections. It is imperative that these materials be preserved.

Like most audiovisual material, the preservation of still images is a complex one. Heliographs, daguerreotypes, cyanotypes, tintypes, albumen, silver gelatin prints, calotype paper negatives, glass plate negatives, nitrate, diacetate and polyester negatives, lantern slides, autochromes, film slides, digital photographs – the list goes on and on. The preservation of this multitude of formats is a daunting task that presents significant concerns, necessitating a variety of storage conditions and techniques. Additionally, photographic collections are usually heavily used, a factor that increases their susceptibility to damage.