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WUDPAC Class of 2024 Fellow Tammy Hong filling a loss and reinforcing the paper support with medium weight mulberry paper. (Photo courtesy Evan Krape./UD.)
WUDPAC Class of 2024 Fellow Tammy Hong's conservation of a platinum print from the Tuskegee University Archives was recently featured in The Decorative Arts Trust bulletin. From the May 27, 2022 blog post:
The art conservation field’s growing emphasis on increasing the visibility of underrepresented communities and histories, public outreach, and advocacy inspired me to become a cultural heritage conservator. I was able to augment this narrative through participating in a community partnership project between the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) and the Tuskegee University Archives (TUA) during my first year of training at WUDPAC. In January 2022, my classmates and I were tasked with the examination and conservation treatment of 62 photographs from the TUA during our Photographs Conservation Block taught by Debra Hess Norris, Chair of the University of Delaware Art Conservation Department and Professor of Photographs Conservation. This exciting project supported the TUA’s goal of increasing researcher accessibility and scholarship by stabilizing and rehousing selected photographs prior to digitization.
The TUA collection documents the growth and evolution of Tuskegee University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), since its founding in 1881. I selected for treatment an unmounted platinum print that depicts six unidentified figures, likely students from the Tuskegee Institute, handling the equipment in a metal shop. These images of “staged” classroom and trade scenes were common subjects for photographs depicting life at the Tuskegee Institute during the early 20th century. This remarkable platinum print is one of the many photographs that depict training offered by the Tuskegee Institute in skilled trades such as carpentry, cabinetmaking, printing, shoemaking, tin smithing, cooking, and sewing. Moreover, it exemplifies how this collection acts as a valuable entryway into Black life and education as well as the the history of Alabama and the Southeast.
The significance of these archival materials was carefully considered in my conservation treatment decision-making. Upon close examination of the platinum print in raking light, I discovered two blind stamps and a number written in black ink employed by the Institute’s Photographic Division indicating the print’s potential use in the Tuskegee Messenger, a semi-monthly journal founded in 1924. While this association could not be confirmed, its significance was clear. Given the print’s historical importance and archival context, the preservation of both the embossed stamp and inked mark was prioritized.
To learn more about the platinum print and its history and treatment, visit The Decorative Arts Trust bulletin website.
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