The Alinari Foundation in Florence has faced an ambitious project…

Established in 1998, the Foundation manages the Alinari National Museum of Photography, the preservation and the enhancement of the Fratelli Alinari’s heritage. The latter contains a unique treasure that, with its more than 5 million originals, is the richest and oldest photographic institution in Italy. Since its beginning, the foundation has been also engaged in the preservation and restoration of his funds in danger, such as the glass plate negatives, works on paper and daguerreotypes, which make one of the most important collection the Alinari Foundation owns worldwide.  Following this impressive preservation activity over the past twenty years, the Directory of the Florentine foundation has recently decided to focus its attention on the film negatives collection.

Fratelli Alinari Duomo Firenze

Fratelli Alinari, Duomo Firenze

Material still not so famous and often considered mediocre by public and private institutions, the negative is a fragile medium: exceeded a certain level of deterioration, the image’s destruction process happens quickly and irreversibly. So a pilot project started in 2013, from the synergistic action of different experiences and business realities, such as Art Defender, the Fratelli Alinari Foundation for the History of Photography and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. The purpose: to make safe the most exposed negatives (those on nitrate and acetate film) and create a functional and replicable model.  The working method chosen by the team composed of Emanuela Sesti and Uta Ruster (Alinari), Annalisa Lusuardi (ArtDefender) and Letizia Montalbano (OPD), has already been used in USA, but experimental for Italy. Films, after a previous study of their degradation condition, are cleaned and restored. They are then placed in special conservative envelopes and kept in high security storages in a microclimate state at -18° in refrigerate rooms controlled by ArtDefender Toscana. Today the negatives made safe are about 14.000, and other 1.000 colour films are expected to be protected by the end of the year. The Alinari, Opificio and ArtDefender’s project rescues a substantial and valuable part of our photographic heritage. We strongly hope that such an operation will serve as a model: not only for the innovative techniques used, but also for creating a standard procedure to be adopted by other institutions on negatives collections in danger.

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