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Images recovered from damaged acetate negatives

July 6, 2017

Special Collections recently sent 50 damaged negatives, from the San Antonio Light Photograph Collection, to Chicago Albumen Company for repair.  The negatives are 4×5 inch cellulose acetate film that deteriorates easily in fluctuating humidity levels and warm temperatures.  The unstable film base shrinks causing the stable gelatin emulsion layer to separate in meandering channels with small gas bubbles.  A damaged negative is brittle and cannot be fattened for scanning.  Conservators strip the image pellicle (the emulsion layer) from the decayed acetate base.  The pellicle can then be scanned by a conservator trained in handling this extremely fragile un-supported image layer.

These are examples of some of the images that were recovered and scanned by Chicago Albumen Company.  Most were damaged when they were accessioned into the collection in 1988.  At last, they are available for use by the public.

Scan from recovered image pellicle showing television stars Nanette Fabray and Carl Reiner arriving at San Antonio International Airport, March 31, 1955. (MS 359: L-4767-F)


The deteriorated negative of Fabray and Reiner, prior to repair, showing channeling and blister-like bubbles that marred the image to the point that the subjects were not recognizable.


The image pellicle after removal from the damaged acetate film base.



Recovered image of Mike Souchak, shortly before winning the Texas Open and setting a new world competive record, Brackenridge Park Golf Course, February 1955. (MS 359: L-4829-G)


Recovered image of two contestants in the Fiesta Children’s Costume Frolic at Municipal Auditorium, April 16, 1955. (MS 359: L-4787-I)


Recovered image of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor touring the Alamo, February 3, 1950. (MS 359: L-3902-E)


Recovered image of Sigma Phi sorority pledges, from San Antonio College, performing outside store on E. Houston Street, February 1955. (MS 359: L-4804-I)

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