·  Matthew Butson
Vice President of Hulton Archive
·  Lenny Hanson
Conservator of Hulton Archive
·  Sarah McDonald
Curator of Hulton Archive
·  Lee Shoulders
Director of Archival Film Content
·  Fox Photos Daybooks
·  Le Grice X-Ray Photograph
·  Roger Bannister breaks four-minute mile, 1954
·  London Stereoscopic Company
·  Rod Steiger, 1955
·  Blondin Crossing Niagara Falls, 1858
·  Tennyson's Idylls of the King, 1873
·  The Great East River Suspension Bridge, 1886
·  Hay Elevator, 1937
·  Eva Peron, 1951
·  Marilyn Monroe, 1956
·  Lauren Bacall, 1954
·  The Express Collection
·  Conservation
Hay Elevator, 1937
Photographer: Herbert Felton

Occasionally a photograph is so badly deteriorated that our paper conservator can only stabilize the object. However, with the advent of the computer age and the sophisticated programs available, we can now reconstruct an image digitally, thus preserving the content for future use. In the case of Herbert Felton's hay elevator image, the emulsion was flaking off the glass plate and traditional techniques would not have restored the piece to a usable standard. Working with a 100MB file and using cloning techniques involving eyedropper and brush tools, layers, masks, noise, Gaussian Blur and sepia toning, we were able to produce a digital version of the photograph and recreate the feel of an original print.

The start of the conservation process is shown in these negative and positive images of a one-quarter plate silver gelatin glass negative. Fluctuations in humidity over the years dried out the image-bearing emulsion layer, causing the image to shrink, lose adhesion and lift off its glass support. The first phase of preservation required floating the emulsion free from the old plate and repositioning it onto a new glass support using a dilute PVA solution, a process akin to putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Each section was then slightly overlapped to make reconstruction easier.

The image was then scanned as a large-format file to allow for detailed reconstruction. Various digital techniques were used, such as layering, cloning and Gaussian Blur to restore the image to its original state. Some areas did not match exactly (the straight ladder, especially) as the emulsion had stretched slightly. The final step was adding a sepia tone to recreate the feel of the original print. In all, the digital restoration took 13 hours to create a master file that can now be licensed for reproduction by our clients.

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