Guideline 3.5

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Back to complete list of STANDARD 3: Collections Care Practices

Guideline 3.5:
Objects are protected from excessive handling and from radiation exposure during photography
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What risks does photography pose to objects?

Photographs provide an important part of an object’s documentation. They may also be needed to illustrate the exhibit catalogue or to aid with the reproduction of vulnerable objects that cannot be exhibited. However, precautions should be taken to prevent photography itself damaging objects. Sources of risk include:
Heat exposure: An object may be exposed to excessive temperatures from hot studio lights. As little as 30 seconds of exposure can harm thermo-sensitive objects.
Light exposure: Flash photography and bright studio lights can greatly add to an object’s cumulative light exposure, damaging both component materials and colorants
Physical damage: An object can be damaged by improper handling and insufficient support during the photographic process.

General guidelines for photographing exhibit objects safely

Consult a conservator to determine which objects will need supports and/or special protection from light exposure.
Use camera equipment and settings that do not require flash or bright studio lighting. High-speed film and long exposures are recommended since these require less light. Photographic backgrounds that reflect light and contrast well with the object can also be used.
Provide trained staff for object handling. Whenever possible, schedule a staff person knowledgeable in collection practices to handle and position the objects being photographed.
Ensure adequate support for objects. Avoid removing essential padding and support from an object when trying to expose it for photography.
Provide safe handling instructions to everyone who will take photographs of objects. (See Guideline 3.1)
Keep the objects on-site. Objects should be photographed on-site, whenever possible. Exhibit team staff should supervise the activities when contract photographers are utilized.