• Image of the reconstructed stockade at Fort Vancouver and Pearson Air Museum looking northeast from the Land Bridge.

    Fort Vancouver

    National Historic Site OR,WA

Conservation of Historic Photographs

Ambrotype of Louisa McLoughlin Rae

Ambrotype of Louisa McLoughlin Rae before conservation. Note the scratches in the black lacquer on Louisa's dress.

NPS PHOTO

The Fort Vancouver museum collection contains a number of historic photographs. In the summer of 2010, a collection of daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, and other photographs were shipped to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts.

Included in this collection of images was the historic daguerreotype of Dr. John McLoughlin seen below. To conserve this photograph, NEDCC conservators first disassembled the dageurreotype "package," which consists of the daguerreotype itself, printed on a glass plate, a brass mat, cover glass, a brass preserver, and the leather covered case. Compressed air was then used to remove dust and debris from the surface of the image.

When the package was re-assembled, the cover glass was removed and replaced with borosilicate glass. Glass made in the nineteenth century is inherently unstable, and will inevitably deteriorate over time, making its replacement necessary.

Also included in this conservation project was the ambrotype image of Louisa McLoughlin Rae, Dr. McLoughlin's granddaughter. The ambrotype process creates a faint negative of an image on a glass plate. When the finished plate was placed in a case, it was backed with black material, which could be lacquer, cloth, paper or metal, to make the image appear positive. Over time, the black lacquer that backs some ambrotype images can flake, and this was the case for this image of Louisa.

NEDCC conservators resolved this problem by placing a piece of archival-quality, PAT-tested black paper behind the plate. This paper will help to preserve both the image and the remaining lacquer.

 
McLoughlin daguerreotype before conservation
Daguerreotype of Dr. John McLoughlin before conservation
NEDCC PHOTO
 
McLoughlin daguerreotype after conservation
Daguerreotype of Dr. John McLoughlin after conservation. Note the removal of dust on the darker areas of the image.
NEDCC PHOTO

Did You Know?

Image of O.O. Howard from the New York Historical Society's Civil War Treasures Collection

Did you know that a number of U.S. Army generals served at Fort Vancouver NHS’s Vancouver Barracks early in their careers? The list includes Generals Oliver O. Howard, George C. Marshall, Ulysses S. Grant, George B. McClellan, Phillip Sheridan, William T. Sherman, Omar Bradley and George Pickett. More...