After checking in on the installation for Photography – The First 100 Years today, our museum technicians have just a few more tiny details to tweak before the show opens tomorrow. All photographs are hung and the signage and labels are just about installed. Lighting is getting checked and rechecked, since several of the photographs are over 100 years old and require very low light levels. On the average a photograph should only get about three to six months of exposure to light and then “rest” in darkened storage for three to five years before going back on view in the galleries. This would explain why your favorite photographs aren’t always up on the walls.
The DIA rotates exhibitions of photographs and other works on paper to preserve them from light which can fade photographic prints and cause paper to decay over time. DIA paper conservator Chris Foster will be keeping a close eye on our more fragile older objects over the course of this exhibition to make sure the there are no changes in their appearance.
The oldest photographic object in the DIA’s collection and in the exhibition is a book of cyanotypes by Anna Atkins. Cyanotypes can fade quickly if exposed to high or constant light levels. Over the course of the exhibition, the book will be opened to several different pages to further limit light exposure and give our audience a sense of the range of patterns and imagery found in this very rare piece – thought to be the first photographically-illustrated book by one of the earliest female photographers in history. Visitors can experience the process of cyanotype firsthand in our new education studio. The workshops are free for children and adults – for more information check out the DIA’s education studio blog.