Photographs are art objects – they also need restoring from time to time

MúzeumCafé spoke to Zita Sor and József Ormos about photographic restoration.

Zita Sor: As far as I know there are two places which have specialists trained as restorers. There is Judit Papp in the National Széchényi Library and ourselves in the National Museum. Both institutes have photo restoration workshops and although the equipment leaves a lot to be desired I can’t complain. The situation used to be worse. We moved into our current workshop in 2008. The National Museum’s Historical Photographic Archive is the largest photo collection in Hungary. Since ours is a young science, it still has to struggle to gain recognition. It has yet to be widely accepted that a photograph is an art object. In order to preserve them for as long as possible certain rules have to be adhered to. It’s not simply a matter of framing a picture, putting it on the wall, removing it a couple of months later and shutting it away, because it can be reproduced at will. An exhibition has to be planned to the smallest detail – the temperature, humidity, lighting, the adhesive material, mounting and framing. You even have to consider the air flows in the exhibition room.

József Ormos: Other institutes have no specialist to continuously keep an eye on their collection. At best it happens that local museologists seek professional advice from the three of us, but it also occurs that people experienced in other fields such as restoring paper or paintings get involved with photos. Due to lack of finance it often happens that the most urgent interventions are not undertaken, though in recent years some institutes have been trying to improve their storage facilities and the quality of their packaging using resources gained from tenders.

Zita Sor: This publication had a small print-run and is free.