The Freeman Project – A UoN/Powerhouse Museum Conservation Research Project

The Freeman Project
University of Newcastle – Powerhouse Museum Conservation Research Project

UoN Conservator Amir Rezapourmogadammiyandabi with large scale glass negative

UoN Conservator Amir Rezapourmogadammiyandabi with large scale glass negative

In early 2011 our Conservator Amir Mogadam began a regional internship program with the Powerhouse Museum, volunteering his time (one day a week) to work on the Freeman Collection Conservation Project.

The aim of the Freeman Project was to trial preservation methods with damaged photographic collections and to document and preserve a collection of 28 oversized photographic negatives (glass plate) taken in late 19th century (possibly as early as the 1870s).

The Collection was donated by the Freemans studios (Sydney) in 1969 and housed in a wooden box for over 40 years.

The collection includes 28 photographic glass plate negatives sized 20” x 16”. The negatives were identified as collodion (fine grained) processed and silver gelatine processed glass plates. The collection also includes 3 wooden chests measuring 25.5” x 17.5”.

The project in brief included:
• Research into the history of the Collection
• Research into the type of negative process used
• Documentation
• Securing
• Cleaning
• Digitization
• Rehousing
• Experimenting the restoration methods

At the commencement of the project the condition of the negatives was unknown. Other issues to overcome were space restrictions, fragility of the emulsion layer and glass substrate, and inappropriate housing.

In this project the preservation measures were conducted in two phases. In the first phase, as an emergency action, all negatives and other objects in the collection were photographed and documented in order to obtain a better understanding of the scope of the collection and also record their current condition at the beginning of the project, prior to securing them to avoid further damage.

The second phase included further preservation measures such as researching the history of collection, identifying the type of negative process, cleaning, thorough digital and written documentation, and proper rehousing provided for the collection.

Complementary measures included an investigation into restorative solutions as to how to repair negatives that had lost their emulsion layer. To achieve this, Amir was able to conduct experiments using samples provided by NSW State Records.

Amir examining large deteriorated glass negative

Amir examining large deteriorated glass negative

The Freeman Project took over 500 hours spread across 77 weeks to complete. During this time all 28 over size silver gelatine and collodion glass plate negatives were documented, cleaned and rehoused. The Project has enriched our knowledge for the preservation of endangered glass plate negatives; the practical experiments provided us with the knowledge of preserving damaged glass plate collections.

H8504-6 emulsion pieces assembled during repair (image turned positive digitally)

H8504-6 emulsion pieces assembled during repair (image turned positive digitally)

The Freeman Project is recognised by the Power House Museum as a good example of regional internship work. It is proposed that the University host an exhibition of the preserved images to be accompanied by a Conservation seminar by the UoN Conservator on the project.

This will provide our local regional audiences with access to examples of conservation techniques, and insights into the conservation work the UoN is capable of doing outside Sydney. It also showcases our ability and willingness for further cooperative work with other conservation institutions providing enhanced reputation and recognition for the University of Newcastle and its collaborative partners.

The Powerhouse Museum’s article on the project entitled “Doing jigsaws at work, recapturing an 1880s image” is available here: http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/insidethecollection/2013/03/doing-jigsaws-at-work-revealing-a-glass-plate-negative-image-from-the-1880s/

The Powerhouse Museum’s photo of the day for Thursday Jan 24th 2013.”Miss Munro, Freeman Brothers Studio, 1871-1880″ is one of the photographs Amir worked on as part of the Project:
http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/imageservices/2013/01/miss-munro-freeman-brothers-studio-1871-1880/

Further images can be viewed here:
http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/search_tags.php?tag=Freeman+Brother+Studio

Amir’s Project poster abstract for the joint meeting (conference) of American Institute of Conservation and the ICOM-CC Photographic Materials Group was also accepted at the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand that was held from 11-15 February, 2013.

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