Archives FAQ: Reformatting Fragile Images


Reformatting (or duplication) plays an important role in the preservation of historic materials by protecting one-of-a-kind originals from handling. A digital copy may someday be the only record of an image that deteriorates over time.

This original black & white photograph was recently donated to the Archives. It measures 11×14 inches, and depicts members of the San Francisco Auxiliary, including Rose Coleman Farb (seated in the front row, with the basket in front of her), who served as the secretary of the auxiliary.

There are some predictable signs of deterioration that can be seen in this photo that aid archivists in identifying photographic prints. This includes silver mirroring, which appears as a metallic deposit or sheen on the surface of the image. This type of deterioration can occur on any photograph containing silver as the final image material, and is commonly seen in gelatin silver prints like this one.

The identification of early photographic processes is a unique and specialized skill set. To practice these skills, I recently attended a workshop taught by photo conservator Gawain Weaver. I would highly recommend this workshop to anyone interested in the preservation of photographic print collections (

To learn more about the preservation of photographs or the City of Hope Archives contact Susan Yates, Archives Program Manager, at or Jennifer Miller, Digitization Archivist, at


One Response to Archives FAQ: Reformatting Fragile Images

  1. Julie Flygare says:

    This is so interesting! Thank you, Susan and Jen, for sharing your expertise and helping to preserve COH’s unique history.

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