The way to handle glass negatives was written up long before modern scanners and computers existed. These ancient rules should be read and then ignored! Even the liquids recommended for “cleaning” the glass negatives are now banned. However de-ionised or distilled water is excellent for cleaning, if required.
Over the past ten years I have had the privilege of scanning all the museum’s glass plate negatives and glass lantern slides. This amounts to over 5,388. They have varied in size from several inches square to larger than A4 size. Some had been kept in strong wooden or metal boxes. Others had been exposed to years of dust. Some had writing on them. Some had small labels on them with writing that was often well faded. Most were simple negatives but some were positives to be looked at via reflected light. A few were colour – experiments carried out by very keen photographers who were well versed in physics and chemistry.
I have carried out many experiments to investigate how to obtain the best jpeg images from these glass plates. The first rule is scan straight away and see what you get. You can always scan again after cleaning, if required. Amazingly, even ancient wrapping-paper well stuck to the glass plate, often causes no appreciable degradation. It all depends upon the scanner, what wavelengths it uses and the capabilities of the scanning software. I have read how other museums cope, and accidental breakages, whilst cleaning etc, before their scanning, do happen. Hence another reason to scan straight away before attempting any cleaning or close examination of the glass plate.
The real task when dealing with glass negatives is ‘what is the image of?’ Unlike prints, there is no back to write on! Is there any text in the image that can be read? Is the image one of a set where information can be pooled from all the images.
I have no information to go with the attached image here but for someone studying social history, this image is full of information.
The ladies all have hats. To the costume expert, their dress styles should give a strong clue as to the date. I’m not a costume expert but I suspect around 1910. Many of the gentlemen have elaborate moustaches.
To the far left there is a peak-capped bandsman with a collection of music stands. In the background there are crowds of people and bunting. There are some detached houses in the background to this area of grass similar to Hudson’s field.
The lady seated with her sun umbrella, and the gentleman next to her, I would say are the reason for the photograph. This gentleman is wearing a winged collar as is his friend to his left and the gentleman far right in the back row. At least seven gentlemen have straw boaters in their hands. Two gentlemen have trilby hats. Was it compulsory that ladies wore their hats and gentlemen held theirs for photos?
Quite a few of the gentlemen have a small badge or medal pinned to their left lapels. The gentleman on the far right has his pipe in his right hand. The gentleman seated and to his right has a card in his hand. Would this be a programme? The young boy on the ground in front of the important couple, is the only young person in the group photograph. I conclude that he is related to the important couple.
The faces are clear enough that someone might recognise them as their ancient relative. Maybe in years to come, Google, with its facial recognition software, will be able to name them via DNA facial features.
If anyone can add to the above, please email the museum. Maybe someone has a framed print of this image on their mantlepiece, with writing on the back!