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Caring for Glass Plate Negatives

Glass plate negatives were the first mass-produced, ready-to-use film made available to photographers. While a glass plate negative can be fairly durable and resistant to changes in temperature and humidity, it is important to follow certain guidelines for storage and handling to ensure their preservation.

  • Always handle plates with two hands by the opposite edges, not the corners.
  • Wear gloves when handling glass plates to avoid leaving fingerprints on the glass or oils on the emulsion. Some recommend lint-free cotton; others recommend a synthetic glove, such as nitrile, to avoid slippage and snags.
  • Place the glass plate, emulsion side up, in a four-flap buffered enclosure. (Label the enclosure before placing the negative inside.)
  • Store glass plates vertically on their long side in an acid- and lignin-free buffered storage box.
  • Make sure that plates are not rubbing against each other and do not fill the box too tightly.
  • Use stiffeners made out of folder stock to separate individual negatives.
  • Label each box with contents and mark "Heavy" and "Glass Negatives: Handle with Care" on the label. This will warn everyone to be careful when lifting the box off a shelf.