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Public library receives grant to restore photos

She said it was from around the 1940s or ’50s. Nearly 70 years after it was made, on Wednesday at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library, the image wasn’t even visible.

Vance-Ali examined one of the yellowing envelopes containing similar-looking negatives in one part of the library’s Carl Brown collection, encased in a receptacle about the size of a shoebox.

“That’s rank,” she said, smelling the envelope’s opening.

After the library was awarded a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities on Wednesday, historical photographs like those in the Carl Brown collection can hopefully be restored and preserved.

“We’re very excited,” Vance-Ali said. “This just helps us in our larger mission of preserving the history and culture of Lowndes County.”

The grant money will be split three ways.

The library will hire photograph conservator Kim Du Boise, with PhotoArts Imaging Professionals, LLC, out of Hattiesburg, to assess photographs in the library’s archive collections and make a plan for restoration. She’ll work full-time for about a week.

Du Boise will assess photographs in the Carl Brown, Joe Sarcone and Jerry Nail collections, as well as others housed in the library. The three collections total thousands of negatives and prints and document life in Lowndes County, through portraits and images of weddings, gatherings and public events, from around the 1940s to the 1990s, collectively.

Vance-Ali said the Joe Sarcone collection will probably need the most work after being stored in a house without air conditioning and electricity before it came to the library. Vance-Ali said photographic negatives should be stored at 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius) and documents and photographs should be stored at 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), ideally.

Storage at an improper temperature, and in a humid climate, can allow for melting and “bug issues.”

“She’s going to have to get deep into that collection and make sure there are no hidden issues,” Vance-Ali said.

Du Boise will also focus on scrapbook images in her assessment. The library has about 50 scrapbooks.

“Dealing with photographs in scrapbooks is a whole other issue,” Vance-Ali said. “When you close a scrapbook, two images are touching. Then you have transference.”

The grant will also cover storage supplies to preserve photos. For example, Kodak safety film needs to be stored between acid-free paper. Glass plate negatives need to be stored vertically. New and additional supplies, including acid-free boxes and sleeves, are needed.

“In different decades, different types of film were produced,” she said. “We have all kinds of formats.”

Webinar training in preservation through the Northeast Document Conservation Center will also be financed by the grant. Vance-Ali, and the two other people who work in the Local History Department, Brenda Durrett and Bettye Brown, will receive the training.

“It’s further educational training,” Vance-Ali said.

The entire restoration project should run September through March, Vance-Ali said.

The library received a preservation assistance grant for a smaller institution from the NEH, which awarded 45 similar grants this year, totaling $394,741.

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Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com

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