A Few Last Details Before DIA Photo Exhibition Opens

 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.

Anna Atkins, Photographs of British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, 1843-44

Anna Atkins, Photographs of British Algae, Cyanotype Impressions, 1843-44

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.

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4 responses to “A Few Last Details Before DIA Photo Exhibition Opens

  1. Cyanotype is in fact a process that is still in use today by many experimental photographers.
    For those of you who want to try your hands on making a REAL cyanotype, there is a lot of info here – on the traditional formula:
    http://www.alternativephotography.com/process_cyanotype.html
    And also a great book here:
    http://www.alternativephotography.com/books/cyanotypes.html

  2. The Atkins book is a truly gorgeous thing, in both its simplicity – the methodical indexing of algaes, the binding, the handwritten notes – & the sumptuousness of the cyanotyped pages, the blues echoing the “blue” of the waters from which the algaes were found, the thickness of the paper, the gravity of the leather binding. What an interesting document of a privately cultivated scientific curiosity & its manifestation as a book, with what was then an entirely new technology.

  3. Yes, Anna Atkins book is really worth getting hold of. There was a reprint in 1984, and some copies can be found that are not too expensive. I got a copy from Powells books for around 25 dollars. A real treasure.

  4. Atkins’s work is truly one of the treasures of our photography collection here at the DIA.

    We have been researching the book and are very interested in the binding, which has been described as “contemporary pebbled cloth” meaning contemporary with the images inside and constructed out of fabric that has been embossed to give it a leather-like texture. Since Atkins distributed her cyanotypes unbound, it was up to the recipient of “British Algae” to have the loose pages bound into book format. As a result, there are tremendous variations in the contents and the outward binding appearance of this book.

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