Protecting Daguerreotypes – Cadell Bursary

Protecting Daguerreotypes – Cadell Bursary

Nicole Devereux, Project Conservator at the University of Edinburgh, received Cadell Bursary funding to attend a specialised workshop on protecting daguerreotypes. She provided this brief overview of the training.

On the 5 July, I attended a one-day workshop at the National Library of Scotland on a new housing structure to protect daguerreotypes run by Clara M. Prieto de la Fuente an independent conservator and restorer of photographs and graphic art.

The workshop started with the history, processing and housing of daguerreotypes which included examples of daguerreotypes not in their cases. We also looked at different materials and the pros and cons of using them as well as the pros and cons of each rehousing structure. This was followed by a demonstration and theory of the new structural housing system for cased daguerreotypes. This started with precise measurements of the daguerreotype case to make a melinex cover. This was quite fiddly to wrap and secure around the case but was very satisfying after completed and was a good way to protect the photograph.

The new structural housing system is designed to strengthen the first line of defence of the daguerreotype – the case – and protect it during storage, exhibition, handling and viewing, thereby mitigating the risk of further deterioration. The main objective of the workshop was to build a housing system that considers the whole object in its functionality and original structure, while allowing for its handling and viewing without increasing the risk of damage.  It was interesting to see how a melinex cover could support the handling of the daguerreotype by stopping it being opened to wide causing damage to the case.  The proposed system not only comprehensively protects daguerreotypes, and other encased photographs such as ambrotypes, but also recreates something of the original intimate viewing experience. In other rehousing systems the glass is covered by melinex and can be quite clunky whereas the melinex cover is light and takes up less space on the shelf and fits in the made to measure phase box perfectly for extra protection.

This was a very interesting and informative workshop from the tutor and the other participants in which I have taken away many ideas to rehouse similar photographs and has given me the experience to rehouse a daguerreotype currently waiting treatment. It was also really inspiring to hear the new developments in photographic conservation from other conservators and a great way to network with like-minded people.