Dry mounting

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It is quite difficult for me to get access to a dry mounting press. Can you reccommend any clever DIY ways to dry mount prints? I've heard that a clothes iron can work.....is this true? As in previous question, archival quality is required. My prints are usually 10x8. Thank

-- Stephen Vaughan (stephen@vaughanphotos.freeserve.co.uk), December 19, 2001


Stephen: A clothes iron will work. Don't overdo the heat and take your time. You need to use a piece of mount board between the iron and print to even out the heat. Keep the iron moving. I suggest the Seal Colormount tissue, as it requires less heat. You may be able to find a used drymount press fairly cheap as I did.


-- Doug Paramore (Dougmary@alaweb.com), December 19, 2001.

Stephen I use a clothes iron with limited success. It is really hard to get everything flat. If I don't clean the iron surface each time I use it I get marks on the print. I use release paper between the iron and the print. I like the idea of using a piece of mat board to not only even out the heat but also to even out the pressure. I'm going to try it on my next mount. I set the temperature at a very low setting. Using the mat may require a higher temperature setting. Jeff

-- jeff schraeder (jeff@circlesofclarity.com), December 19, 2001.

dry mounting is not considered an archival process. also, in my HABS/HAER work, toning is not allowed. for archival mounting, we use linen tape hinges.

-- jnorman (jnorman34@attbi.com), December 19, 2001.

Before getting a press I used an iron on occaision. What worked best for me was to place a clean matboard over the print and on top of that an 1/8th inch piece of aluminum slightly bigger than the print size. This helps even out the heat and holds the heat better than the mat board alone. I got very good at mounting up to 11x14. Anything larger I had mounted at a framing shop.

-- James Chinn (jchinn2@dellepro.com), December 19, 2001.

Stephen, using a clothes iron will probably lead you to ruin good prints, with heat damage perhaps not immediately apparent. I have a question or two for jnorman: (1) Is dry mounting not considered archival in your HABS/HAER work (what do these letters stand for?) because of acidity problems (which are avoidable) or because the process is nonreversible? (2) Why is toning not allowed? I would think that properly done selenium or gold toning would be acceptable. (3) I also would think that good plastic or folded-paper corners would be better than linen tape attached directly to the print; do you agree?

-- Michael Alpert (alpert@umit.maine.edu), December 19, 2001.

Michael, if the NPS site ever gets back online, you can check out the HABS/HAER specs yourslef...it's the "Historic American Building Survey/Historic Architectural Engineering Record" project or something similar to that...a preservation prograpm run by the Fed gov't...using contract photographers mostly, or the 2 staffers they have, or with staffers working for various state gov't agencies...usually they're linked into a Dept. of Transportation agency or an Archives....in my agency, they work out of the Dept. of Cultural Resources Historic Preservation branch.....

I can't speak for Mr. Norman, but I'm just guessing he goofed up typing that response, because toning is considered part of the final printing process, and could be considered a step in the preservation negs as well. However, I can say that in an archive or museum, dry mounting is considered to be about the worst thig that you can do to a print or a piece of textual material, or anything on paper....to be "archival", anything done must be reversible....dry mounting tissues also have problems with the adhesives used, and with some the actual material used in the tissue part...is close to glasseine, which is pretty bad as well. I'm not talking "fine art" here, but for an archivist or a conservator's point of view, to dry mouny something is close to ruining it....as always, my opinions only here.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), December 19, 2001.

I don't know - I've seen a lot of conflicting accounts. Museums and conservationists have typically preferred linen hinges. However a recent article in View Camera (see http://www.superiorarchivalmats.com/Article.html for the article) argued that this was insufficient and the use of a special mat board called ArtCare was actually better as it trapped pollutants and prevented them from reaching the artwork). The article makes interesting reading.

And yes, my understanding is that toning is necessary for archival considerations. Nishimura's work concluded that it needed toning to completion - for example, incomplete toning in seleium to enhance Dmax was not as archival as complete toning.

Cheers, DJ.

-- N Dhananjay (dhananjay-nayakankuppam@uiowa.edu), December 19, 2001.

DK Thompson, thank you for your response. As I am sure you are aware, many photographers, including well-known ones, wreck any possiblilty that their work will endure by improper processing, printing, and storage. If the HABS/HAER specs are available for cut and paste (i.e., not too long) could you post them, perhaps as a new thread, in this forum? If they are too extensive to post, could you post the print- version publication number and title? I think many photographers would find the guidelines challenging and useful.

-- Michael Alpert (alpert@umit.maine.edu), December 19, 2001.

Sorry for my horrendous spelling up there...I feel like the moleman, I've been confined to the darkroom for a couple of weeks....the Thomas Duplex is about as bright as my world gets...

Uh, the NPS site is down temporarily I think, but there's some vendor type specs online for what they need, and there's a booklet they put out as well...as far as I know (I don't do survey work), they're really picky about just what they will accept....I know that a typical state survey project is a little more lax in regards to the final materials, but for the most part they tend to deal with negative based archives over a print based one....the way I look at something like HABS is akin to a reformatting project, but instead of books or newspapers and microfilm, they work with buildings....fiber based paper and polyester based sheet films are sorta the "gold standard" for long-term storage....in my line of work, we aim more for long-term files of negs over all else...probably the majority of all the archives & institutions in this country have the facility & means to make an archival print, but the majority of the access prints are done on RC papers, and now digital output....the master files are always the negs....and b&w sheet films would be the choice....kind of the opposite of what the fine-art world does....as for me, personally, I have no problems with folks who want to dry mount...I do it myself occasionally....but then I print on alot of RC too, lifes too short to worry about making "master" prints all the time...when i die, I'd rather leave my negs to a local historical society than anything else, and I don't want to burden them with having to refile thousands of negs out of lousy enclosures either....I have to deal with that enough at work..

Oh yeah, "Artcare" boards are not exactly new...there's been a product out for awhile now called "Microchamber" papers and box boards, that Conservation Resources Int'l. has been carrying...it's a similar concept that has a molecular trap type barrier in the paper, some grades have a polyster sheet barrier as well...you can buy sheets, or envelopes or storage folders & boxes made up of this material...they also market the Lig free I & II papers as well....CRI has extensive literature about this...I still think you'd be hard pressed to find a conservator who'd back dry mounting though...the ones I work with are adamant about this issue.....as always, my opinions only.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), December 19, 2001.

Okay, in lieu of the NPS site or the Conserve-o-grams they put out as well...here are some basic tutorial FAQ type links from a couplke of institutions like the Library of Congress, NARA and the NEDCC....the NEDCC is a good read with alot of resourceful links as well...same for the LOC.




that last one is for the "Caring for your Collections" from the LOC...there's a how-to thing in there under the title "Preservation Matting" that explains how you'd approach it from a non-dry mounting perspective....

what I was trying to say above was, that in working in an archive type environment, you get a different perspective on just what it really takes to make something last for generations to come....basically, you have to put it away forever and not use it, and still accept the fact that _nothing_ lasts forever...I'd rather spend my own free time, enjoying photography and making prints for myself, rather than fussing abouth how many 100's of years they'll last.....for perspective, polyester based sheet films will outlast probably all these materials in the end.....

okay, the deep tank is calling my name....happy holidays you all, and as always MY opinions only.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), December 19, 2001.

michael -

(1) Is dry mounting not considered archival in your HABS/HAER work (what do these letters stand for?) because of acidity problems (which are avoidable) or because the process is nonreversible?"

the library of congress maintains the collections of the historic american building survey (HABS) and the historic american engineering record (HAER), so everything i do must meet their standards for archival quality. there is no adhesive that is considered archival, so any mounting method which uses adhesives is verboten - they do not accept any mounted materials and they do not accept any color materials (though, oddly, they have begun aksing that i submit certain color materials, but with very weird conditions). i only use linen tape hinges for exhibition purposes, and for museum collections. no museum curator i have worked with likes dry-mounted photographs.

(2) Why is toning not allowed? I would think that properly done selenium or gold toning would be acceptable.

i didnt say that toning was not archival - i just said the LOC will not allow it. from my reading, some toning processes (selenium in particular) can be more archival than even the best processed untoned fiber-base prints, so i am not sure why the LOC doesnt like it, but i did ask them a couple of years ago if i could submit toned prints, and they said no.

(3) I also would think that good plastic or folded-paper corners would be better than linen tape attached directly to the print; do you agree?

no. corners are not typically strong enough to provide longterm secure mounting, and again, the adhesive used is not archival. every gallery and museum i have worked with prefers linen tape hinges.

-- jnorman (jnorman34@attbi.com), December 19, 2001.

FYI -- NPS site is down due to court order related to settlement of the trust fund issue with Indians (aka Native Americans). NPS told me it might me up as soon as this week.

-- Jay wolfe (bigbad810@hotmail.com), December 19, 2001.

Verrry interesting! A few nights ago I went through an old cardboard box of photos, some dating from the 1890's but most from the 1920's and 30's. The box was stored under the worse conditions possible--in the rafters of a leaky garage for the last forty years and in a basement before that. Attic temperatures reach 140 easily here in the summertime. The photos, nearly all professionally shot and printed, were in interesting shape. The ones scotch taped to albums faired the worst. The photoalbum paper itself had discolored and become very brittle. The photos in the best condition were mounted and looked very similar to the drymount common today. In fact some looked like they could have been printed last week. If you could find what kind of process and materials they used back in the 1920's you might have an answer to your question. By the way, there was a stack of celluloid 8x10 negatives that had melted together and had become highly unstable! Aside from that bit of excitement, it was an interesting education seeing first hand what stuff like mucilage, rubber cement and album corners can do to vintage photographs. The mounted photos were the best preserved,but who knows how they did it?

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), December 20, 2001.

See, that's just the thing there....what you just described is the typical scenario you'd find if you worked in a museum or an archive, and had potential patrons hauling in stuff from their attics and basements...you get to see it_all_....I wasn't always the cynic that I've become about "archival" printing and materials...but in typical employee fashion, I have become a cynic....so forgive me...

But, old films, sheet films on acetate bases and nitrate bases, and glass plates...these are all problems in collections...nitrate used to be the big problem, only now they've figured out that if you get it cold & keep it there, well it's manageable. The big problem now is acetate based films....they will all break down & decay in time...even the triacetate roll films everybody shoots now...like Tri-X etc....BUT, the polyester based films are very stable...so, yeah, I see from time to time old negs all globbed together, I do alot of copywork of old prints on bad mounts, discolored and brittle....old photo albums, prints stuck to PVC pages...the whole shebang...in a museum you're not going to remove that stuff, you just try to "preserve it" as is.....

BUT, you can scream bloody murder, point to this & that in your attic or hanging on Ansel Adam's wall or whatever, and it won't matter to the institutional community..they are entrenched in their own set of rules and standards....when they talk of "archival" (okay, they don't even use that word...the word is LE: life expectancy...they acknowledge that _nothing_ lasts forever)...when they say an archival print, they mean something that will remain in storage forever...it will not be shown. It will sit in a vault or storage room under 70 degrees and within a rh range of like 30% or so, maybe even a cold storage vault...it will not be handled without gloves on, it will remain in the dark....the minute it goes out on display, the clock starts ticking on it's life...the lux levels will be set just so for the lights etc....it will be rotated out of display on schedules....it's a different world, and a different way of thinking....it could be some snapshot that was carried in a plastic wallet for 30 yrs., now it's an "artifact" and nobody will ever see it or touch it again. All these places will look at print and film materials as records and access media....it's not about fine-art, although I'm not saying that some of the architectural photos aren't that, but it's about choosing the best media for the record...but all these places will make RC prints, they'll use digital files for access, etc...it's just that nobody would claim them to be "archival"....I'm always skeptical in a way, when I see that term used...because it's so vague and hard to pin down...it's like when a manufacturer calls a neg sleeve "archival" when nobody could ever guarantee that....it's hard enough to store stuff in a controlled environment with fancy vaults & enclosures...it's almost impossible out in the real world....

aaargh...must be crabby today! You want to dry mount, go ahead & bust loose!....only don't call it archival, because now it's just a dry mounted fiber base print. End of rant & soapbox preaching.....happy holidays you all...

Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), December 20, 2001.

Many thanks to previous contributors for the information, opinions, and links. There are storage and use issues here that are obviously not fully resolvable. When it comes to longevity vs display, most artists want it both ways; so it is important that photographers have good information in order to make choices with open eyes, so to speak. My solution is to print multiple copies of images. Some prints are kept in proper storage and designated for some unspecified future destination, and others are designated for near-term exhibition, with much care put into the selection of materials and procedures so that these display and handling prints will also have a reasonable chance for survival. My negatives are stored in "archival" paper envelopes and boxes, though I have mixed feelings about the survival of my many negatives, if only because I realize that no one else could select and make prints from them with the original photographer's vision in mind.

-- Michael Alpert (alpert@umit.maine.edu), December 20, 2001.

Michael, that's a solid strategy and well thought out...better than just blindly believing that any fiber print will last forever....over the years my outlook has changed a bit, since having to print so _many_ negs shot by other people....I learned that in regards to my own images-- that tastes change...you're always evolving as a printer in a darkroom, the more experience you get,you just don't go backwards....I'm a good printer, but I'm not the best...who is? I dunno, maybe some guy working in a historical institution 100 yrs. from now printing my negs.....it's all about interpetation, and printing old negs is like the ultimate time machine for a photographer...

So, sorry to sound like such a harda**, but I find alot of times, people seem to blindly believe what someone calls "archival"....there are quite a few products on the market now, that are called "archival", that are anything but really....and there's nothing sinister with that, because it's just this big, catch-all word...with no standard to match it against & define it...and as manufacturer, you'd be stupid to actually warranty that...because so much can go wrong over time. You're better off storing your negs in paper, and even better off if that product passes the PAT, and is designed for neg storage. Good luck with your archive...

Opinions expressed in this message may not represent the policy of my agency.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), December 21, 2001.

DK, thank you again. Yes, all my storage materials pass the PAT test and are used correctly. This has been a very valuable conversation from my point of view, but I am wondering what the original questioner Stephen Vaughan thinks of this discussion. I realize we have expanded his question greatly. Stephen, I hope this thread has been helpful.

-- Michael Alpert (alpert@umit.maine.edu), December 21, 2001.

Tesing for permanence I have had done shows that dry mounting photographs on ArtCare materials is a more archival process than not dry mounting them, despite what most curators believe. Also, of the many museums where my photographs have been collected, only one institution (less than 1%) requested that the photographs they purchased not be dry mounted. So by all means, dry mount your photographs--but do use a dry mount press. It is likely that you'll end up damaging your photographs if you use an iron.

Michael A. Smith

-- Michael A. Smith (michaelandpaula@michaelandpaula.com), December 21, 2001.

Mr. Thompson, just curious, which sheet films in general are shot on acetate these days, and which on polyester?

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), December 22, 2001.

There was a very intersting article about 2 years ago in framing Magazine. It was all about longevity of framed prints. What I found interesting was that these "acid free" backboards and mats actually faired worse in testing with certain type prints vs. the acid type mats and boards. Although there is a small vairance in ph between acid free and non acid free, the key to success seemed to lie in matching the print ph with the mat and back board ph. This prevents the materials of one to seep into the other. I picked up this copy of the magazine at the Jan. 2000 framing show in Vegas. Anyone really intersted in this subject may want to track down that issue.

-- Bill Glickman (bglick@pclv.com), December 25, 2001.

A bit aside but relevant to the discussion: how "archival" is fiber based printing paper, what fiber are we talking about?

-- Hans Berkhout (berkhout@cadvision.com), December 26, 2001.

Hans, your question is important. I suggest that you ask it as a new question so people who are not paying attention to this thread can have a chance to answer it. I worked in book arts for many years, and I must say that the qualities of fiber-based photographic paper (low tear and folding strength, but very high resistance to dissolution when bathed in water) are not what most paper-makers normally try to achieve. The availability of alpha cellulose is better today than in the past, and its cost is lower. I assume that good photographic paper is made from alpha cellulose or equivalent material. Anyway, we all need more complete information. Please ask your question to the whole forum.

-- Michael Alpert (alpert@umit.maine.edu), December 26, 2001.

Hans, yeah...that's a good question...I'd think a paper conservator or a photo conservator could give some sort of opinion on that....but just like anything-- how long it will last, depends on how it's stored & displayed...and I'm not really sure that you can draw conclusions from accelerated tests anyways, they can guide you in making a purchase of materials, but nothing really beats seeing something up close...that's one reason why it's so hard to figure this stuff out...because look at the age of photography...it's nothing compared to other print forms....manuscripts, records etc... Dry mounting is maybe 50-60 yrs. old. To a conservator, "archival" means reversible...I don't think any photographer will ever convince them otherwise, even if the product is advertised as removable with heat....collections people are "hands- off" when it comes to objects and materials...like I was saying--a different world & mindset. It's hard to say 100 yrs. from now which would be worse with a print, heat it up to remove the "archival" dry mount adhesive and risk damaging the print in the process or just have the thing mounted to a board forever & risk any damage from that in the form of poor storage & handling....if you're going to do it, pick good boards & do it right, and _save_ your negs.

And you know, all bets are off once you start displaying this stuff...I doubt you could get a guarantee from anyone...unless you were in an institutional agreement over lending objects to other institutions...I don't know if you've ever seen the amount of paperwork & security deposits and on-site control that goes into traveling exhibits out of larger institutions...but every little detail is looked into...from the envrionment to handling to everything else...and then insured to a high degree...once something has become a part of a collection, it's cared for in a way beyond the print hanging on your living room wall, or the local coffee shop...

Andre, just check out the film specs....Kodak uses the word ESTAR for their polyester films. Some other trade names are used as well....triacetate is the youngest form of acetate based films....most b&w (not all) sheets are on polyester...the color neg & trans are kinda 50/50 on triacetate and polyester...but then color isn't considered to be a long term material anyways.

Remember what I was saying: I'm not talking fine art here.....fine art to me is anything goes....do what you want & enjoy the process...I work in the bowels os history museum...when I move on, the negs I shoot have to stay in the storage enclosures & do their job for however long the institution lasts...they're records. We've hit our 100 yr. mark, so I have the benefit of seeing some materials used in the past that haven't fared so well, only they probably were "accepted" at the time....

Well, I may be on vacation, but nonetheless these are MY opnions only as always...

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), December 26, 2001.


-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), December 29, 2001.

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