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Conserving Photographs

Sylvie Pénichon will lead a tour of the exhibition she curated, “Conserving Photographs”, which is currently on view through April 28, 2019 - Gallery 10
Photographs are surprisingly delicate objects—vulnerable to damage sustained through improper handling, poor storage conditions, and even flaws inherent to their own chemistry. Art Institute conservators meticulously document a work’s condition; enact preventative measures to keep it safe while it’s stored, shipped, and displayed; and undertake scientific research to learn more about its material composition. When damage is evident, they carry out state-of-the-art treatments, effectively turning back the hands of time. 

by Sylvie Pénichon

Head of Photograph Conservation
at Art Institute of Chicago

Since 1982, the Art Institute has maintained a world-class facility devoted to the examination, analysis, preservation, and conservation of photographs, including a cold-storage vault
dedicated to color photographs--the first of its kind in a fine art
museum. This exhibition invites visitors to travel behind the scenes of its cutting-edge conservation lab, revealing the
numerous steps taken to care for and preserve the collection,
which comprises approximately 24,000 objects, from early
daguerreotypes to present-day digital prints and time-based
media. Visitors are able to discover how structural and aesthetic integrity is restored to damaged works through microphotographs that uncover characteristic features of papers, artificially aged samples that illustrate the effects of light on dyes, and side-by-side copies of the same image that show the inherent shortcomings of certain processes and the benefits of proper storage conditions. 
Through a wide selection of works from the museum’s collection that showcase the technical history of photographic processes from the 19th century to the present, as well as the related conservation, preservation, and connoisseurship issues that attend them, this unique presentation affords the rare opportunity to look at the collection through a conservator’s eyes and see photographs anew.

Also .... Congratulations to Silvie! for making it on the the PBS Newshour. You can see her interview with Jeffrey Brown at:

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