Photographs and Preservation. How to save photographic works of art for the future?
09 / 2012 - 08 / 2016
This research program focuses on a corpus of post 1960 photographic artworks to which different materials were added or unconventional techniques applied. Apart from the 'normal' aging processes, mixed media photo-works are affected by specific (chemical) interactions between the different materials and between object and environment, the chemical instability of analogue photographs and the resulting irreversible degradation. All this greatly influences appearance and has serious consequences for conservation and display. Furthermore, challenging questions are posed to conservators and art historians: what is the significance of the unusual superposition of another medium to the photograph, its subsequent aging and the differential material changes in the understanding of artworks? To cope with these complex problems of material instability, environment and historical evidence, a multidisciplinary approach is necessary that integrates Art History with Conservation Science and Chemistry. This joint approach will be applied to photo-works for the first time to such an extent. The aim is to identify and examine the undesirable material interactions that affect Art History findings, conservation and thus ultimately the display and interpretation of culturally important and unique photo-works, in order to formulate a conservation strategy and proactive approach to deal with future problems. New insights in the singularity of photo works will also be gained. This requires close collaboration between art historians, conservators, curators, chemists and artists to provide the broad context in which the collaborative art historical and chemical analysis of photo-works ought to be performed. A selection of internationally important photo-works from participating Dutch art museums will serve as case studies.