For nearly 200 years, the most significant events in our history have been captured in photographs. Historical incidents, significant people, and sporting victories live on through printed images, as do the people and places that are close to our hearts. Unlike modern photography, there is often only one copy of an antique photograph. Once that begins to fade, our memories of its content could be lost forever.
A lot of our work involves valuable photographs owned by museums, educational institutions, and families who want to preserve their past. This blog post looks at how photo restoration can help protect their historical photographic treasures.
Firstly, how much is an old photograph worth?
In 2011, a faded, grainy photograph of Billy the Kid – the infamous American outlaw – sold for $2.3 million at auction. It was the only authenticated image of the gunslinger at the time, and the buyer was a collector with a passion for American artifacts. The photo’s historical significance, unique attributes, and quality in the eye of its beholder all contributed to its hefty price-tag. It also has a public interest, making it worthy of at least one museum exhibition.
Of course, the amount an old photograph is worth isn’t just about dollars. Think of a single existing wedding photograph, a picture of a child’s first day at school, or photos of people no longer with us. The emotional value is priceless.
Conservation of old photographs
When museums or homeowners display old photographs, the exposure to UV light and varying temperatures cause the image to fade, which can dramatically reduce their value. Damage to the original is fixable via a professional conservationist, using artistic techniques and chemical processes to improve the image. This carries a substantial risk because they work directly with the print, plus their services are often very expensive. Conservation is therefore not always a practical option.
Making display copies for museums
Happily, there is a way to safely display precious photographs for everyone to enjoy, while retaining their value. If a museum wants to protect an antique photo in a permanent exhibition, they call on our photo restoration services. We digitally restore the image and create a display copy. This can be hung anywhere – even in a sunny spot – because if the copy fades, it is easy to reprint. They then store the original in a vault to preserve it in optimal conditions. So, don’t be disappointed if a photograph in a museum isn’t the original. They’re simply protecting it to ensure it is around for future generations.
Restoring photographs for your home
The work we do with museums is equally valid for family portraits in your home. Photographs of people who are dear to you hold a significant value. For any that you want to display, we urge you to create a restored printed copy. Then, follow the AIC’s guidelines for caring for treasured photographs and safely store the original.
Our photo restoration services assist with the full process, from scanning the original to providing perfect prints. Request a complimentary quote using a snapshot of your photograph taken with your cell phone, or get in touch to find out more.