Generally, handling and use heightens the risk of damage to your materials, be it through neglectful handling (e.g. touching photo emulsion with bare hands) or irresponsible operation of access equipment. This is a risk posed by patrons and staff alike, intentional or not.
One of the easiest areas to implement protections for collections is through careful handling and sensible collections care. The unfettered use and handling of materials heightens the general risk of damage--be it through neglectful handling (e.g. touching photo emulsion with bare hands) or irresponsible operation of access equipment. Whether intentional or not, this is a risk posed by patrons and staff alike.
Examples of neglect, mishandling, and mismanagement include:
The use of additional copies for reference or display purposes is highly recommended, particularly if the item is an original or valuable. This provides broader access to the content while also protecting the original document from user wear and tear or environmental factors.
Recommendations for care of original object:
To learn more about best practices for use and access, including resources for creating digital surrogates, see Use & Access in the User-Manual.
Store vertically with dividers between each slide. May also be stored horizontally (flat). Enclosures and folders may be stored in hanging files or archival storage boxes.
Acid-free enclosures and/or folders strongly advised. Each tintype should have its own enclosure to protect it from dust, handling damage, and changes in environmental conditions. Tintypes with flaking emulsions should be stored flat and stored in low humidity. Loose tintypes in good condition are best stored in a sturdy four-flap enclosure; if cased, they are best stored in acid-free tissue and placed in a folding box to prevent breakage and abrasion.
The duration of an exhibit should be determined in advance, and no item should be placed on display permanently. Most items should not be displayed for longer than 3 to 4 months, assuming other conditions like light levels, temperature, and relative humidity are within acceptable ranges. Facsimiles or items of low artifactual value may be exhibited for longer periods of time. Between display periods, they should be returned to an appropriate environment where they may "rest" in dark storage.
Light levels should be kept as low as possible. When on display, objects should be protected from exposure to natural light, which contains high levels of UV radiation. Shades, curtains, or filters applied directly to windows will help to minimize this exposure. This is particularly important for tintypes, which are very sensitive to light.
Display cases should be enclosed and sealed to protect their contents, and their items should be securely framed or matted using preservation-quality materials that have passed the Photographic Activity Test (ISO18916).
For more information on exhibition management, see Exhibition Guidelines.
If your item has any kind of labeling on the container, the item itself, or any related material, we highly recommend that you return to the Basic Info section and enter this information in the appropriate field(s).
The thin iron support of a tintype is vulnerable to mechanical damage as it is easily bent and abraded. A tintype found today will likely be found loose and therefore dented, bent, or scratched up. The collodion binder and varnishes are sensitive to light; they will yellow or perhaps delaminate under intense light exposure.
If your item is exhibiting white or brown patches or if you see a lattice-like growth along the edges, you are most likely viewing mold. Items stored in hot, humid environments (generally above 65% relative humidity) are most vulnerable to mold, mildew, and fungus contamination. Mold will typically damage the edges of photographic material first. If mold has eaten into the emulsion, the item will be noticeably and irreparably damaged, exhibiting feathery-like distortions or dull spots on the projected image. Mold can be removed through cleaning and then storing the items in a cold, dry environment, but this should be done responsibly.
Pests like insects and rodents tend to like paper and textile materials more than copper-based materials. That said, pests can still do damage. When assessing the exposure of your collections to pests, it is necessary to look not just at the materials themselves and their containers, but also at the larger environment. Insects and rodents tend to leave droppings in areas they inhabit. Insects tend to leave behind a substance called frass, which is the undigested fibers from paper. If you see droppings and/or frass in the storage area, it is a strong sign that your materials are being exposed to pests. Small, irregular holes on paper-based enclosures are also a sign that pests have attacked your materials.
Some tips for reducing your materials' exposure to pests are to refrain from eating anywhere near your collections materials. Crumbs and food waste draw pests, so eat far from your collections. Another tip applying to both pests and mold is to be cautious about donated materials when you receive them. Pests and mold can hitch a ride into your facility on these materials, so having a good, clean staging area where you can inspect donated items for, among other things, pest and mold evidence can help you reduce your storage environments' exposure to both.
The most significant preservation risk to tintypes is exposure to water and high humidity, which will lead to oxidation and rusting. This, in turn, causes blistering, flaking, and total loss of the image emulsion layer. If placed on a secondary paper support or in a sleeve, rust stains may show on its back side.
Tintypes were occasionally placed in small hinged cases but were more typically inserted into folding cards or envelopes/window mats made of paper or metal. If found today, they will mostly be loose.
The most significant preservation risk to tintypes is exposure to water and high humidity, which will lead to oxidation and rusting. This, in turn, causes blistering, flaking, and total loss of the image emulsion layer. The collodion binder and varnishes are sensitive to light; they will yellow or perhaps delaminate under intense light exposure.