Preservation and Restoration of Photographic and Audiovisual Materials after Large-Scale Disasters

Fenna Yola Tykwer
The Electronic Media Review, Volume Three: 2013-2014
Abstract PDF


After the collapse of the Historical Archive building in Cologne in 2009, after which about 90% of the holdings were either resting beneath a mountain of rubble or among debris found in an underground railway shaft outside the building, a number of problems arose. More than five hundred thousand photographic and five thousand audiovisual objects were among the salvaged holdings. Each item was in need of a thorough cleaning and adequate repackaging, and, in many cases, additional conservation intervention will be needed. It is estimated that all in all, more than six thousand years will be necessary for conservation alone. Therefore, processes for the mass treatment and restoration of these materials, as well as an exchange of experiences in terms of how this is achieved will be needed, and will be discussed here. The general workflow distinguishes between a first phase of basic conservation measures that can be taken with all items, regardless of catalog number or other criteria. Later on, more sophisticated and costly restoration processes will be prioritized with respect to collections, the individual value of the object in question, and the availability of sponsorship. The presentation looks at the perspectives for the work in a newly organized studio for conservation and restoration of photographic and audiovisual materials at the branch Office in Wermsdorf, Germany. Apart from normal processes of conservation and restoration, the possibilities of reuniting negatives and damaged photographs will be presented and different ways of re-using these negatives will be shown. The presentation will also address the possibilities and problems of co-operation with other institutions to make use of available records—in the case of live recordings— from other archives.

Fenna Yola Tykwer
Time-Based Media Conservator and PhD Candidate
Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design
Universalmuseum Joanneum
Joanneumsviertel 3
8010 Graz
+43 316 8017 9876