My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

What am I Working On?

I have always been interested in heritage studies, and have also always been drawn to the sciences, so entering the field of heritage science was of course a good way to go! I am currently doing a PhD at the Centre for Sustainable Heritage, University College London (in conjunction with The National Archives’) on ‘The Lifetime of Colour Photographs in Mixed Archival Collections’. Here is a short introduction to my work:

A significant problem in the preservation of colour photographs is their inherent instability, which leads to fading of dyes even in the dark. Thus, colour print stability is mainly dependent on the environment conditions during storage. Nevertheless, often photographs are stored in mixed collections, particularly in archives, with the storage conditions often being geared towards the other, more abundant, material. But what are the environmental conditions which are most significant to the degradation of photographic prints, and in what way do these conditions interact together and with the material to cause changes in the photographic material?

This project aims to evaluate the impact of different environmental conditions on colour photographic media stored in mixed collections. By combining material characterisation, environmental conditions and value measurements, the data collected will help in the construction of a computer model which will allow for lifetime prediction, thus assisting in the management of photographic media in these mixed collections.

2 Responses

  1. AagePK says:

    The black-and-white photographs, the coloured ones, and the coloured photoprints have all their specific chemical composition, and interaction with different carriers like paper, cardboard, cloth or ceramics, and when first invented, I guess nobody thought of upcoming problems with conservation, like for instance the problem with the first celluloid film material.
    But how aware are the producers nowadays of this problem, and how helpful are they in letting you as a conservator know of their data? For advertising reasons they all claim “Eternal life”, but……..do they cooperate?

  2. annmucc says:

    Just to clarify first and foremost: I am not a conservator – my background is chemistry.
    The producers are aware of the problem. Over time they did improve on their products. However, there is limited work being done now on chromogenic prints (which are the materials I am working with) as either the R&D departments have closed down, or they are switching over to inkjets and other similar (digital-based) techniques.

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