A labor of love

Written by Jim DaMico, Graphics Project Archivist

I am in the middle of processing a very large (6 records storage boxes) collection of family photographs. To say the least, it has been quite a challenge. The collection came in 1982 and became part of the processing backlog that I am now tackling.

I found that a large percentage, approximately 70%, of the images are copy photographs and negatives of other photographs, daguerreotypes and paintings. Of course these copy photographs were intermingled with original photographs that include snapshots, cabinet card portraits and tintypes.  The majority of these copy photographs were made between 1916-1922 and were created by the Louis K. Liggett Company, a pharmacy/photo processing lab located on Westminster and Eddy Streets, Providence, Rhode Island.

For the most part, the nitrate negatives and accompanying contact prints were found in the original acidic envelope from the photo lab. Due to the acidic nature of the envelopes, some of the negatives and prints have become brittle. Placing them in acid free, buffered envelopes and folders will slow the deterioration of the material.

Additionally, a single sheet of type written instructions was generally found in each of the envelopes. For the most part the instructions would state how many prints from what negatives the customer wanted, if the prints were to be mounted and if so, how they should be trimmed etc. Sometimes the note would be a reprimand for previous shoddy work. I can only imagine what the lab technicians thought of their customer.

Here are a couple of examples:

After figuring out what I was dealing with, I embarked on photocopying the envelopes and typescript notes onto acid free paper. Each envelope would then be placed in an individual folder and labeled with subject, work order number from the envelope and date. The date information is typically what is found on the typewritten note.

The photographs are being organized into two broad categories: Copy photographs and Original photographs. The collection is also being weeded to make the collection more accessible, nitrate negatives are being housed in buffered envelopes and glass plate negatives are being placed in four flap enclosures.

More to come….

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