Contemporary Collections: Preprints from the AICCM National Conference 17th g 19th October 2007 Brisbane pp. 151-159


The National Archives of Australia (NAA) investigated the use of surfactants in releasing water-damaged photographic prints that have become stuck to other surfaces. The recommended NAA response to such damage is to immerse the prints in clear, cold water and mechanically separate them. Attempts were made to ascertain whether the addition of a surfactant to the salvage treatment bath would improve this technique by decreasing treatment times and/or aiding the ease of detachment. Photo-flo is the only surfactant that has been reported in the salvage literature of wet photographic material. Due to the possible cessation in manufacture of photographic surfactants, the NAA found merit in searching for viable alternatives outside of the photographic industry. A number of surfactants from the paper manufacturing industry and the field of textiles conservation were selected for comparison with Photo-flo 200”. These were Dehypon LS-45”, Synperonic A7”, Triton- X-100”, Saponin purum and soapwort. A water control bath was used as a means of ascertaining the level to which surfactants aided the removal of photographic prints from foreign surfaces. When considering the effectiveness of treatment the following parameters were assessed: the ease of separating photographs from surfaces; the duration of treatment; surfactant residues; and, ecological and toxicological effects.

2007 AICCM National Conference, Brisbane
Paper author:
Gubby, Sarah; McCarthy, Julie