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Paul Messier Conservation of Photographs & Works on Paper

Possibly the largest collection of its kind in the world, this collection of over 5,000 samples was started in the late 1990s to provide, for scholars and connoisseurs, an objective baseline for dating and authenticating photographic prints. Papers typically enter the collection in manufacturer sample books or original manufacturer packages. Samples from 65 manufacturers comprising over 360 brands have mostly been fully catalogued by manufacturer, brand, surface texture and reflectance. Aside from the ongoing photograph conservation research applications, the collection also serves the intrinsically valuable purpose of preserving the materials of the 20th century photographer.

The collection has provided samples for a recent backprinting survey and has also been used for a number of studies that have significantly expanded the understanding of photographic papers. These projects include a survey for optical brightening agents, measurements of inorganic components in the baryta layer (in collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute), paper fiber identification (in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art and Integrated Paper Services) and stability of optically brightened paper (in collaboration with the Art Conservation Research Center, Carnegie Mellon University).

The collection is supplemented by a reference library documenting materials and techniques (thanks to Nicole Messier for putting these online). A web cast presentation on the collection and associated research applications is available from the Library of Congress.

Contributions to the collection are gratefully accepted. In some cases, the purchase of unique papers and manufacturer sample books can be arranged. Such inquiries are welcome.Please contact:

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