Investigation and conservation of El-Shenawy palace photographic collection in Mansoura, Egypt

Maha Ahmed Ali* , Mona Fouad Ali, Sawsan Darwish, Usama Saker, Enrico Ciliberto, Enrico Greco, Ezio Viscuso

Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry, Vol. 15, No 3,(2015),pp. 165-185
DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2774

Paper-based photographic collections are an essential part of the Egyptian cultural heritage both for their artistic and documentary value and as a record of the history of photography, as a technique as well as a form of artistic expression. Due to their significance, the interest in photographs is growing worldwide and institutions are making great efforts to increase access to photographic collection, as well as preserve originals for future generations. The threats to photographs are many. They are very sensitive to fluctuating temperatures and relative humidity, frequent handling, air pollution, light, and improper storage and display. Unlike other paper objects, photographs have special conservation requirements due to their complex and unique nature. A private collection was selected for this study. The collection consists of five black and white photographic prints documenting one of the most valuable structures of architectural heritage in the city of El-Mansoura. This paper describes the signs of deterioration present in the collection through documenting the preservation status of El-Shenawy palace photographic collection. It also describes the conservation treatments carried out to prolong their lifespan. Prior to treatment, the photographs were characterized and studied by visual inspection, digital camera, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Scanning electron microscope (SEM) provided with an energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy unit was used to identify the components of the photographs, assess their preservation status, as well as study the morphology of the paper fibres in both the primary and secondary supports. Microbiological studies and pH measurements were also carried out. The results of the investigations revealed that image silver in most cases suffered from sulfiding, the secondary supports suffered from both oxidation and hydrolysis, and the gelatin binder also showed signs of degradation. Based on the results of previous studies, the following interventive conservation procedures were selected and carried out: disinfection, cleaning, dismantlement of the secondary support, deacidification, tear mending and compensating for losses, remounting, retouching, and rehousing.

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