Photograph from the collection - Catalogue reference COPY 1/447

Copyright 1 (COPY 1) is a miscellaneous collection of original photographic images and advertising ephemera submitted for the registration of proprietorship at Stationers' Hall.

The records, and in particular the photographic collection, provide a social history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are highly popular. A large number of the photographs have been damaged through inappropriate handling and housing.

Conservation challenges

The collection comprises around 100,000 photographic images, the earliest dating from 1862. The copyright forms and the attached photographs are currently stored in 250 individual boxes, each containing approximately 600 forms.

Priority for conservation treatment

Sporadic conservation treatment began in the early 1990s, including work carried out on the Edward Muybridge and Henry Emerson collections. However, in 2008 we decided that the complete series should be treated and re-housed as a priority, bearing in mind the threat to its physical and chemical stability from its inherently unstable condition, coupled with heavy use.

One of the main problems is that readers may bend the photograph to read the text on the form beneath it, with the risk of tearing both the form and the photograph while doing so. In addition, many photographs are oversized and inappropriately folded, leading to fragmentation and subsequent loss of information.

Conservation treatments

Work on conserving these collections began in 2010 and is expected to be completed in 2012. We are separating forms and photos through humidification by means of Tyvek® sandwiches and stabilising both with minimal intervention, e.g. splint repairs with Japanese Tissue.

The photographs and forms are then encapsulated separately and sealed together on the left-hand side. Finally, the forms are stored in batches of 25 in four-flap enclosures of archival grey cover paper, and boxed.

Heavily damaged photographs, probably less than 3% of the collection, undergo slightly more interventive conservation treatment carried out by a photographic conservator.