RIT’s Image Permanence Institute completes enhancement of Graphics Atlas website

Three-year project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

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Courtesy of Image Permanence Institute

Between 1959 and 1968 dramatic improvements were made to the stability of the dyes as well as the couplers. These 1959 chromogenic prints, for example, were made just months apart.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Image Permanence Institute (IPI) recently completed work on a three-year project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to collect, refine and disseminate information about the material nature of photographic and photomechanical objects in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

IPI’s Graphics Atlas (www.graphicsatlas.org) website, which officially launched in 2010, now includes an improved and greatly expanded process identification section.

“Traditional photographs and digital prints are made of a wide variety of materials and it is important to recognize that the way a print looks—its aesthetic qualities—is directly tied to its physical properties and the materials from which it is made,” said Alice Carver-Kubik, IPI photographic research scientist and principal investigator for this project. “The detailed information and extensive illustrations included in Graphics Atlas allow users to identify the process used to create the image, and to distinguish one process from another, providing a unique and valuable tool for conservators, archivists, curators and university educators.”

Based on a 2012 survey of Graphics Atlas users, IPI developed a new and methodological approach to enable process identification. Each identification page begins with an overview, which provides a description of each process, common use dates, key identifying features, alternate names and other information. Identifying characteristics of the process are described in detail in three categories: object, surface and magnification. The object view includes characteristics that can be observed with even illumination, such as the nature of the support and the image tone. The surface view includes surface characteristics of sheen and texture, which can be seen with specular or raking light. Magnification describes characteristics such as image and layer structure, which are best seen with magnification. Lastly, every process includes a variations section that describes important variations of the process.

Each process is illustrated with high-resolution images of objects from the IPI study collection and is accompanied by text that describes the connections between chemistry, technology, materials and aesthetic characteristics, providing the user with an informed approach to identification. Graphics Atlas also provides information on the history of photographic and photomechanical processes along with the types and mechanisms of deterioration associated with each.

The result of this three-year project is a sophisticated and comprehensive Web resource with a broad scope of didactic information on graphic processes far surpassing that of any other print or Web publication.

IPI has a long-term commitment to research and education about the materials and techniques of traditional photography. This project successfully built on this foundation, using IPI’s unique institutional setting, skills, and knowledge to create a lasting resource to document, illustrate and preserve the legacy of photography.

About The Image Permanence Institute

The Image Permanence Institute, part of RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences, is a recognized world leader in the development and deployment of sustainable practices for the preservation of images and cultural property. The institute accomplishes this through a balanced program of research, education, products and services that meet the needs of individuals, companies and institutions.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation supports five core program areas: higher education and scholarship; scholarly communications and information technology; art history, conservation and museums; the performing arts; and conservation and the environment. The Foundation develops thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invests sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results.