Preserving the Past – Before and after

Sort of following along with the previous two posts, I though I would post a little about my recent preservation project.

I have ended up as the custodian for my Father’s slide collection. About 500-700 Kodachromes most of which were taken in the 1950s – 1960s. 

I remember the living room slide shows from my youth and still sort of remember the subject of most of the images and around when they were made. Of course there were many where I didn’t remember the people or location so I culled those out. Some people wouldn’t have, but most of the slides are around 60-70 years old and have not been stored properly over the decades and are pretty severely damaged. They are contaminated with what I think is either mold or fungus and many have actual damage to the emulsion. To preserve them for the future is going to require some work and so I reduced the workload by culling out that which is inconsequential to the story. 

So let me give you a quick overview of the process.

First I needed a scanner of some sort. For reviewing the slides I still had my old light box and loupe from the 1990’s. Now I needed to transfer them to digital. After some pretty thorough research I settled on the Epson Perfection V600 Photo scanner. A pretty basic flatbed scanner that is photo-centric and way better than some of the cheaper models that simply digitize the image to an SD card as a low resolution JPEG.

I like the Epson V600 mainly because, through their scanning app, I can choose resolution and file type. So I am not limited to JPEG. After some experimentation, a resolution of 4800 ppi and .Tiff files seems the best solution in this case.

I don’t have any need for any other scanning software than comes standard with the scanner. So far I have been extremely happy with the results. 

After scanning is when the fun begins (that was sarcasm by the way). I scan them to a folder on my desktop then import them to Lightroom (Classic not Mobile). After a brief look over, I send them from Lightroom to Photoshop where the real work begins.

This is an unretouched scan directly from the original Kodachrome transparency which was made in 1954 at the corner of Market and Powell streets in San Francisco CA. You can see the spotting and scratches in the sky, as well as spotting near the WOOLWORTH’S sign

With extensive use of the healing brushes and clone stamp tool, I am able to remove the fungus/mold contamination, and repair the damage. Then I save them back to Lightroom and make some basic adjustment to try and preserve the original colors.

So far, it’s taken me about 30-90 minutes per image to have them done to my taste.

This is the finished product. What do you think?

When they’re done, I am taking the standard precautions with the finished files: One copy on my computer, one copy in cloud storage, and one copy on a portable drive, and last, my personal precaution of printing the best of the selects.

I have no illusions, this is going to be a long term project. But I think that it will be worth it in the end.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.

Stay safe, see the world your own way, and thanks for reading.