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Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

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  • Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

    Our historical society has 1000 5x7 glass plate negatives from 1910 tucked away in the museum. We recently purchased an Epson V700 scanner and started the process of digitizing them. Whoever sorted them years ago put 150 or so in envelopes and some have post-its on the glass (thankfully most are on the non emulsion side) but I've come across a few with a matching 5x7 print in the envelope and now it's stuck to the glass negative.

    Having no experience in developing the glass plates, any ideas on how to remove the stuck photo? Can we simply immerse the whole thing in plain water & gently pull it apart?


  • #2
    Re: Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

    Please do not immerse them in plain water. There is a good chance you will pull the emulsion off the glass plate and or the matching print. It is possible that you may have success but IMO the risk is too great.

    Assuming the plates are 'valuable' either in monetary terms or historical tems then I think you should seek the advice of a photographic conservator. A good conservator should have a very wide knowledge and be able to identify the materials in your objects and is likely to have a much better chance to recover these while minimising the risk of further damage
    Last edited by Tony W; 03-08-2012, 01:34 PM.


    • #3
      Re: Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

      I have been restoring prints for 30 years, in fact in addition to offering the services to the general public I am in charge of photos and restoration for two museums.

      Remember we are only speaking of real photographic images here and not inkjet products.
      Currently some photo labs use inkjet systems to make prints so we are only talking about "real" wet darkroom type prints here.

      These prints can be separated from glass by soaking in water - its an accepted method of removal BUT remember it has physical limitations and in NOT 100% fool proof.

      It is advisable to do everything to establish a back up before using the immersion method. The print should be scanned or photographed with the glass before the immersion treatment and your client should know going into this that many of the imperfections that appear behind the glass and possibly even additional new imperfections will be present if and when the print releases from the glass.

      Prints just like photographic "film" is a colloid or emulsion which supports the light sensitive particles which make up the image. So this technique works with prints as well as negative stuck to something or stuck together. This emulsion is usually an animal rendering by product VERY much like Knox gelatin or Jello. This stuff works just like a powerful glue and when wet it dries like super glue.

      The immersion method is to take a shallow tray. Darkroom trays work great. Water with an addition of Kodak Wetting Agent should be used. The Wetting Agent is a little harder to find these days but try to find it. It helps break the surface tension, But in a bind a very small amount of dish water detergent can be used in place of the wetting agent.

      The process requires patience. It may take days for the print to start separating from
      the glass. Try before pry! Try from the edges and slowly see if the print will will come off the glass. DON'T force it. If you force this strp you run the risk of pulling the top emulsion layer that holds the image completely off the paper substrate and it doesn't matter if its a real paper print or a resin print - emulsion is emulsion.

      My experience has been this works 75% of the time - but basically this is the only option available.

      To sum up: Take every step to insure before you do this that you have a copy of something as a backup (you can always try your photoshop magic).
      Take your time - this may take a while maybe days - I have soaked prints for several weeks.
      Make sure your customer totally understands this is a LAST RESORT (maybe get this in writing).

      Be prepared to do allot of post work in Photoshop or the manipulation tools of your trade to get to a nice result.


      • #4
        Re: Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

        Thankfully only about 20% of the print is stuck to the glass. Since 150 of the 1000 negatives in the museum were sorted & enveloped about 10 yrs ago, I'm hoping time is in our favor. If only it wasn't the emulsion side!

        We don't care about the print stuck to it (it's very, very faded) & we have an 8x10 copy. For us the value is that it is an awesome image of our first city bank.

        I will scan both the negative and 8x10 just in case and try the soaking approach. Thank you!


        • #5
          Re: Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

          If only about 20% is stuck to the glass you should be good it should soak and slip right off the glass... Just remember don't force it....

          Remember too that a faded print is an easy photoshop fix.


          • #6
            Re: Removing print stuck to glass plate negative

            Same as zea14, I've been copying glass negatives ca. 1910 for a museum, and a number of them have paper stuck to the emulsion. Soaking doesn't work, takes off the emulsion. I've had some success "transparentizing" the paper by soaking with vegetable oil, about the same index of refraction as the cellulose of the paper, but this doesn't help if the paper has print on it. Has anyone tried radiography for this? Silver is much more opaque to x-rays than either paper or glass, so presumably an x-ray image of a glass plate negative could give a good copy despite the paper.


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