Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Relaxing and Rehumidifying Photographs - Part 3

This is the third post in a series about my experiences with rehumidifying and flattening oversize documents and photographs based on Denise Levenick's, "Photo Tutorial: How to Relax and Rehumidity Old Rolled Photographs and Documents." Also, reader Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana had some excellent observations in the comments section of Part 1 that you might want to read.

I had long narrow items that needed to be unrolled. One is a poster. The other a photograph. Both presented new challenges and provided me with the opportunity to commit errors. Hopefully you will learn from what I did wrong!

First the photograph. It went into the "humidification chamber," like the other items before it. After a bit, I was able to somewhat unroll it.

The next step is where I ran into trouble. The photograph is too long for the chamber. Denise suggested using a bathtub and closing up the room. So I gave it a try.

And this is where I ran into trouble and I only have myself to blame!

First, the document dried out. I just could not get that room to become humid. Period. Remember, I'm in Phoenix, Arizona. You've heard the saying, "But it's a dry heat." Well, heat or not, we live in a very dry climate. As I write this post in June 2014, the humidity outside is 3%. Let me rewrite that - three percent. When I did this little experiment in early spring, the humidity was double: 7%. If I were to do this experiment again. And I probably will. I'll wait until monsoon season so we at least have some humidity to work with from the get go.

Second, I think it would have been better to lay a flat surface on top of the racks. Then lay the picture on the flat surface. Again, my bad.

This was the result:

You see those little cracks along the bottom? I don't know if they were there to begin with but we are trying to avoid those.

So I tried another long photograph. It wasn't quite as long as the first one so, after making sure the ends wouldn't end up in the water, I went back to my original method I used with the documents. It worked beautifully.
After spending time under the blotting paper with weights on top, this photograph came out with no cracks.

Next I attempted to unroll what I'll call an old panorama poster. It was looong. Longer than any of the other items. And boy did I screw up!

Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 1
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Document - Part 2
Relaxing and Rehumidifying an Old Poster - Part 4

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© 2014, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. Do you know how to get photos that are stuck together apart? I tried holding them over a steaming kettle, but it didn't work.

  2. I am glad to know about this process and to see that it worked. (it's a little scary!) Thank you so much for sharing this. I have several things from my grandmother that are essentially useless because they are rolled so tightly.

  3. Anonymous, That's an excellent question. Can you tell why they are stuck together? What's sticking to them?

    Michelle, Yes it's quite scary but like you I've got things that are useless if they don't get flattened. Today I tried flattening a couple of letters that had been folded. That was absolutely terrifying but it turned out good. I'll write about it later.