A crash course

Yesterday, I took a break from my vacation to head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first of a two-day workshop on photograph conservation. Taught by Debbie Hess Norris and Katie Sanderson, the workshop was a crash course in photographic materials and preservation for a group of fifteen doctoral students from around the country, each participating in an educational program at the museum. The enthusiasm of the students seemed to fuel the enthusiasm of the instructors and group leaders, so I was really lucky to sit-in on this dynamic course.

Debbie shows the group some examples of albumen prints.

Creating the compositions for our photogenic drawings.

My first visit to the Photograph Conservation Department at the Met was back in January, when the WUDPAC class of 2014 visited as part of our photo block. If I hadn’t already decided to major in photograph conservation at that point, the Met’s collection would certainly have swayed me. The prints that I saw then, and again yesterday, are aesthetically gorgeous and in impeccable condition. I almost didn’t recognize the albumen prints because of their white paper, purplish-brown tonalities, and crisp images. If you’d like to see some examples, but aren’t conveniently located near the Met, you can check out over 33,000 images of the collection online.

Examples of salted paper prints fixed/stabilized in different solutions. Clockwise from the upper left: hypo (sodium thiosulfate), sodium chloride, potassium iodide, and potassium bromide. Notice the range of tonalities.







The workshop was the perfect opportunity for me to revisit the information covered in photo block, in preparation for my second year in the WUDPAC program. I also got to make salted paper prints! Katie demonstrated William Henry Fox Talbot’s process of creating photogenic drawings, and described the difference between stabilizing solution and fixer. One of the most important things I took away was a glimpse at how to successfully teach photograph conservation to non-conservators.

Being a Monday, the museum was unfortunately closed, so I didn’t have the chance to walk through the galleries, but I did enjoy a nice lunch AND dinner with some amazing colleagues. I’m looking forward to traveling back to NYC this weekend for a photo workshop and for the start of my summer internship at MoMA.

Categories: Workshops | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “A crash course

  1. This sounds like such a great workshop! I find it interesting that one of the most important take-aways for you was seeing how photograph conservation is taught to non-conservators. I went to a workshop once that was geared towards librarians and it was so great to see their enthusiasm for learning proper conservation techniques. That always stays with me.

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