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Sep 2, 2015 2:31 EST

The Great History Freeze to preserve photographic negatives: Join The Great History Freeze and help preserve a collection of invaluable and irreplaceable negatives.

iCrowdNewswire - Sep 2, 2015

Join The Great History Freeze and help Pasadena Museum of History (PMH) preserve a collection of invaluable and irreplaceable negatives that visually document this region’s past. 

What’s happening to our negatives? 

The over one-million photographic images in Pasadena Museum of History’s archives are among the Museum’s most valuable resources, attracting researchers worldwide and utilized on a regular basis by local journalists, scholars, and individuals. In spite of our careful preservation efforts, many of them are deteriorating at a rate that will destroy them completely within 20 years!

This image is from the invaluable Helen Lukens Gaut Collection of negatives.  Here is the image as scanned circa 2000. Pasadena Museum of History (HLG-66).
This image is from the invaluable Helen Lukens Gaut Collection of negatives. Here is the image as scanned circa 2000. Pasadena Museum of History (HLG-66).
Here is the same negative in its current deteriorated state as discovered April 2014 (HLG-66).
Here is the same negative in its current deteriorated state as discovered April 2014 (HLG-66).

Deterioration can be stopped!

In 2012, we were awarded a grant from the state library’s California Preservation Program to study our valuable photographic holdings. A photographic conservator and the head of UC Berkeley’s preservation department visited PMH in June of 2012.

Their visit uncovered grave issues faced by our collection of historic negatives: Although our archives are temperature controlled, the humidity regularly fluctuates between 40 to 50%, even reaching 55%-plus in summer. Humidity this high is a problem for archival storage in general, but it is particularly detrimental to negatives. Most at-risk are the hundreds of thousands of negatives dating prior to 1970.

Special Precautions

Installing freezers to preserve our negatives is not a project that was taken on lightly. Photo conservator Gawain Weaver spent several days assessing our photograph collections and storage capabilities, and recommended installing individual freezers to preserve the Museum’s negatives. Collections staff then spent months researching cold storage, including attending a seminar run by the Image Permanence Institute. Members of the Museum’s Collections Committee also consulted conservators at the Getty and visited their freezer storage. 

When the first freezer was installed, staff spent additional time doing “test runs” with supplies, equipment, and “test” negatives before placing any of our collections into the freezer. When the negatives were stored in the freezer, they were first packed in archival boxes that were then wrapped in two layers of plastic bags, including a static shield bag and a polyethylene zip lock bag to create a micro environment for each box. The freezer is equipped with 24 hour temperature and humidity data logger that collects data every minute and is capable of alerting staff should temperature and humidity goes over the acceptable range.

Click on the links below for more information on cold storage and preservation of photographic materials.

https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/webfm_send/301

http://www.nps.gov/museum/coldstorage/html/packaging4_1.html

https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/5.-photographs/5.1-a-short-guide-to-film-base-photographic-materials-identification,-care,-and-duplication

This image is from the collection of mid-century photographer J. Allen Hawkins. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at Friendship Baptist Church, Pasadena, February 28, 1960. Pasadena Museum of History (JAH19072).
This image is from the collection of mid-century photographer J. Allen Hawkins. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at Friendship Baptist Church, Pasadena, February 28, 1960. Pasadena Museum of History (JAH19072).

Please see more information about two of the important photographic collections that you can help preserve on our website at www.pasadenahistory.org/collections-spotlight

The good news: Freezers = Stability

Freezing the negatives will put them in a chemically inert state, and limit off-gassing. It is more cost-effective than scanning every negative and digitally storing them, and has the added benefit of preserving the historic artifact. This is the method currently in use by major historical museums with photographic collections. 

Progress So Far 

One freezer has already been donated and it is at work saving some of the most at-risk negatives. The freezer has been programmed for humidity and temperature controls that are monitored remotely and digitally, keeping conditions perfect for the preservation of the negatives. The remainder of the negative collection is awaiting your support so they also can be preserved in a frigid environment. 

Theodore Lukens on San Jacinto Peak, 1905. Pasadena Museum of History (HLG-123).
Theodore Lukens on San Jacinto Peak, 1905. Pasadena Museum of History (HLG-123).

Our Goal – How You Can Help 

The Great History Freeze campaign is seeking funding for a minimum of one additional freezer for preservation of our historic negatives. Any contribution toward the $2,450 goal will help. All contributions are 100% tax deductible. 

Budget 

Estimated cost of one freezer and associated costs: TOTAL $2,450 

This includes: 

One 20 cubic ft. industrial freezer equipped with a wireless data monitor (for temperature and humidity): $1400 

Archival storage containers for one freezer: $300 

Inventory and re-house between 18,000-20,000 negatives, per freezer: $750 

Stretch Goal 

The Museum’s ultimate goal is to eventually obtain up to 10 freezers; any funds over and above this campaign goal will go toward the purchase of future freezers and supplies. If we reach our stretch goal of two freezers ($4,900), all Great History Freeze supporters will be invited to a super cool ice cream party at the Museum! 

Please help us freeze these precious images for posterity! 

With Gratitude 

PMH would like to express our sincere appreciation to Skycraft Studios www.skycraftstudios.com for planning, developing, producing, editing and delivering our amazing Kickstarter video, to all our dedicated volunteers and interns at Pasadena Museum of History for preserving and sharing our Collections, and to You the Great History Freeze supporters for making it possible to preserve this invaluable collection of historic negatives! 

About Pasadena Museum of History 

Pasadena Museum of History strives is to promote an appreciation of history, culture, arts, and sciences relevant to Pasadena and adjoining communities. It maintains the area’s largest and most complete photographic archives of Pasadena and its environs, numbering an estimated one million photographic images. Staff, interns and volunteers, headed by Director of Collections Laura Verlaque, work tirelessly to catalog, digitize, and share the Museum’s collections which contain well over 1,000,000 historic photographs, rare books, manuscripts, maps, architectural records, and more. More information about the Museum can be found at www.pasadenahistory.org.

Contact Information:

Pasadena Museum of History

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