TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Flash/no flash
Author  :  Sara Wolf mailto:%20sjcenik@aol.com
Date  :  01-15-2001 on 09:44 a.m.
There are several reasons for the no flash policy. One is that the Museum holds copyright on its collections and does make a certain income off of selling images. Second, quite often there are one or more loans to an exhibition. Lenders may specify whether or not photographs can be taken of their object. If it is not allowed, clearly it isn't possible to monitor which objects people are taking pictures of, so all become off limits.

Flash technology has changed a great deal in the past few years. I'm afraid I haven't made a point of keeping up with it, and should review the literature to see if some of the newer technology is less harmful. The rationale behind no flash has been that the light source is very intense. Going back to the original salon statement, you'll note that the reaction that takes place is fueled by energy, and light is energy. Our goal in the museum is simply to eliminate as many of the obvious problems as we can (natural light, flash, fluorescent bulbs), and diminish the rapidity of deterioration.

Just a note about attitudes: I think that many people perceive that conservators want to keep everything in the dark. Not so. In fact, having worked so intensely with collections over the years, I wish there were better ways to share all of the treasures held in collections. Please understand that most places are doing the best that they can within the confines of their staff and funding, to give as much access to the collection as they can. It's a constant balancing act between our obligations to the present and our obligations to the future.

Subject  :  Re:Flash/no flash
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  01-15-2001 on 10:08 a.m.
Dear Sara,

I don't think photo flash technology has changed in the past 25 years in any way that's relevant to textile conservation.

Photo flash is very intense light, with a spectrum approximating that of the sun and of somewhat greater intensity. That's the bad news. The good news is that the duration is extremely short, generally between 1/1,000 and 1/10,000 of a second.

To estimate potential damage, it would be conservative to assume that about 500 flash photos expose a textile to as much light as 1 second of sunlight. That is another way of saying that 50,000 flash photos are less damaging to a textile than 2 minutes in the sun. This seems like a negligible level of damage to me. I'll bet that setting up and shooting the the photos Don Tuttle does for publication (and the photos made for museum catalogs) involve enough light exposure to make flash photography by visitors to a museum a trivial increment.

Steve Price

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