Another month, another collections project begins! About two years ago, our archival collection was moved back into the main collections storage area of the museum to consolidate as much of the collection as possible under one roof in our state-of-the-art temperature and humidity controlled storage area. With this move came a renewed emphasis on attempting to digitize the archival collection by scanning materials and attaching them to their catalog records in our database. This would also simultaneously mean the archives would undergo a complete inventory, which is desperately needed. As with any organization, existing records found can occasionally be incomplete, contain incorrect information or be missing totally. We are working to fix this problem, a little at a time.
Currently, we are working on scanning 35mm slides, of which we have over 6,000! A color slide is a saturated full-color positive image, a transparency, on a plastic film support composed of three layers of gelatin, each containing a dye image (yellow, magenta, cyan). Color transparencies are often placed in mounts to protect them during handling and allow them to be used in slide projectors. Without this cardboard or plastic mount, the transparent film material would not be able to ‘slide’ from one image to another when being projected. In its heyday slides were relatively cheap and they were widely used in contexts ranging from domestic to commercial applications such as advertising, fashion and industry as well as academia and the arts.
Finished transparencies, or slides, are most frequently displayed by projection. 35mm slide projectors first came into widespread use during the 1950s. A flat piece of heat-absorbing glass is often placed in the light path between the condensing lens and the slide, to avoid damaging the latter. This glass transmits visible wavelengths but absorbs infrared. Light passes through the transparent slide and lens, and the resulting image is enlarged and projected onto a flat screen. Most manufacturers have stopped the production and marketing of slide projectors, with only a few projector models remaining available now in 2015.
These projectors were direct descendants of the larger-format magic lantern, an early type of image projector employing pictures on sheets of glass developed in the 17th century. The magic lantern used a concave mirror in back of a light source to direct as much of the light as possible through a small rectangular sheet of glass—a “lantern slide”—on which was the painted or photographic image to be projected, and onward into a lens at the front of the apparatus.
Here at BNHV, we are employing two Epson Perfection 4490 Photo scanners to tackle the job of scanning these slides and preserving their images. By taking off the reflective document mat on the interior of the top lid, you will uncover the lighting apparatus needed to pass light through the transparency and more properly reveal the image. With a scanner attachment, we are able to scan four slides at a time and then save them onto our network and attach them to their catalog records.
Most of you are probably very familiar with slide transparencies and probably own quite a few yourself! Here are some tips for protecting your slides for years to come. Dye fading or shifting will occur as a result of even slight light exposure. Color transparencies should be protected from light exposure and stored in a cold, dark, dry environment. Color transparencies will fade rapidly when exposed to light, but they will gradually fade even if kept in dark storage. The degree of fading will depend on brand, era, and the colorants used. Slides on acetate film are at a higher risk level than those on polyester and should be monitored closely for signs of deterioration. Each slide should have its own enclosure to protect it from dust, handling damage, and changes in environmental conditions. This enclosure may be a paper (conservation-quality, acid-free) or plastic (polypropylene, uncoated polyester, cellulose triacetate) sleeve, envelope, or wrapper. Consider scanning the slides and committing their images to a hard drive or CD. Better to capture the images now!
Here are some of our favorites that we have come across while scanning!