Pictures of You: Kenyon College Rehousing Project

04. Box One layout top tray
An array of daguerreotypes from Kenyon College.

In 2018, Kenyon College came to Jamison Art Conservation with an interesting challenge. They hold a study collection of more than forty historic photographic images, mainly daguerreotypes in leather cases with missing or separated covers. The objects were stored in a manner that made them difficult for students to access. The college wanted them made secure but also available for research. Their request was for an archivally appropriate storage system that could be ready for the classroom by the start of the 2019 spring term.

Jamye partnered with Kenyon to submit a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant proposal to underwrite the costs of the rehousing. LSTA annually awards grants to libraries of up to $4,999 for a wide range of conservation and preservation projects. Institutions are given nearly a year to complete their work. They can also reapply in subsequent years and build on their accomplishments.

01. Inventory
Inventory in progress.

We began by carefully examining and condition reporting on each individual cased photograph. This gave us a sense of the overall size needs. We then laid out test trays in order to determine the optimal number of objects per tray, both for weight and spacing considerations. We determined that four archival boxes would provide light and roomy housing for the photos, and began to order supplies for building the customized enclosures.

08. Boxes two thru four laid out
Objects laid out for measurement on paper “trays.”

Kenyon also had a second grouping of tintype photographs from the nineteenth century without any exterior casings. JAC was asked to build individual protective enclosures for each one. For efficiency, we conducted both parts of the project—forty folders and four custom boxes—simultaneously.

A multi-part, hinged folder was built in which each metal photograph would be held in place by tiny magnets. The folder was created in such a way that the board on which the photo was mounted could be removed for student use. It also included a window mat so that the overall package could be framed if Kenyon so desired. Jamye worked with Art Forum Framing in Lakewood, Ohio, to get the hundreds of necessary component pieces cut to size from archival mat board, and we then assembled them by hand in the studio.

15. Taped board strips
Multiple components being assembled into protective enclosures.
22. Lg and sm enclosures
Fully assembled enclosures for the tintypes.

Meanwhile, work progressed on the cased daguerreotype boxes. We created “bumpers” lined with a soft polyethylene foam called Volara, and used the same material as a liner under each object. To secure all the covers of the photographic cases, and secure all the cases within the storage boxes, we tied each one to its tray using narrow, linen twill tape. As a final step, we built handling trays for each of the four boxes, lined with Volara foam and intended to hold a pair of cotton gloves. Each time a professor or student wishes to examine one or more photographs, the objects can be carefully placed on this tray and appropriately supported when they are removed from the box for use.

25. Box 1 done with ties
Completed box for daguerreotypes.

Kenyon was thrilled with the final results of the project. They are looking forward to many more years of studying these collections, now that they are safely and attractively rehoused.