Press Room Search

Current Press Releases
Archived Press Releases

News Home Current Press Releases


Understanding 20th-Century Photographs: Baryta Layer Research Symposium At the Getty Center, January 24, 2006

January 13, 2006

LOS ANGELES—Photography specialists, conservators, and scientists from around the world will gather at the Getty Center this month to hear and discuss new research findings in photographs conservation. Understanding 20th Century Photographs: Baryta Layer Research Symposium, to be held January 24, 2006, at the Getty Center, Los Angeles, will focus on chemical-based photography, a fast-vanishing medium in this digital age. The day-long symposium is part of the Getty’s ongoing research on the conservation of photographs, a project spearheaded by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI). The event will be followed by a related lecture that will discuss the challenges of enhancing and preserving the vast photographic archive of the city of Paris.

The symposium is co-organized by the GCI and Boston-based private conservator Paul Messier. It presents results of investigations conducted independently by scientists at the GCI and by Messier on baryta-coated black-and-white paper, the major photographic printing medium of the 20th century. Millions of art, technical, and documentary photographs now preserved in museums, historical collections, and archives, as well as countless private and family collections, were printed on this paper. The gelatin silver black-and-white paper was available in various varieties and grades, and produced by numerous large and small manufacturers in many countries. Only a few photographers provided detailed information about their darkroom techniques, including the brand and type of photographic paper they used when printing their works. The GCI and Messier have identified a number of physical and chemical markers of the baryta-coated paper that might act as signatures and be used to determine both the provenance and the date of the photographic materials. Proper determination of this information will be crucial to the development of appropriate preservation techniques for these photographs.

The symposium will allow GCI experts and Messier to share their findings with a broad spectrum of colleagues in the field. They will also offer details on the background, rationale, and methodology behind their research. A roundtable discussion will explore future phases of the baryta layer research and its application in photography-related research and scholarship.

In a lecture following the symposium, Dr. Anne Cartier-Bresson, founder, chief curator, and director of the Atelier for the Restoration and Conservation of Photographs of the City of Paris, will discuss the challenges of enhancing and preserving the city’s vast photographic heritage while making it accessible to the public. This talk is part of Conservation Matters, a free public lecture series at the Getty that brings attention to some of the most pressing concerns facing the conservation of art and historic sites today.  (Please see below for more details on the lecture.)

The Research on the Conservation of Photographs project grew out of concern that the rapid shift to digital photography could lead to a loss of crucial information about past artistic, commercial, and experimental photographic processes and technologies. In 2000, a group of experts from the GCI and the Image Permanence Institute (IPI) in Rochester, New York, met to discuss the most important research issues on the subject of traditional photography. They determined that an advanced methodology to identify photographs and photographic materials must be developed as a prerequisite for further development of preventative treatments. The GCI, IPI, and the Centre de Recherches sur la Conservation des Documents Graphiques (CRCDG), Paris, later launched a collaborative research project to advance techniques for identifying important variations in photographic processes. The project team partners are working both independently and collaboratively on several areas of research, and meet regularly to exchange ideas and results.

The Getty’s research on traditional photographs has wide implications for collections around the world, including the J. Paul Getty Museum’s extensive holdings of American and European photographs, which features works from the earliest eras of photography to modern masters. The Getty also holds photographs in the special collections of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute that include rare historical images and vast photography archives for study purposes.

The GCI works internationally to advance the field of conservation through scientific research, field projects, education and training, and the dissemination of information in various media. In its programs, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the visual arts. Among its resources are the comprehensive database AATA Online: Abstracts of International Conservation Literature and a variety of publications.

For more information about the GCI please visit

Conservation Matters Lecture:
Preservation Strategies for Photography in a World of Access
Tuesday, January 24, 2006, 7:00 p.m., Museum Lecture Hall, the Getty Center
The photographic collections, prints, and negatives held in the museums, libraries, and archives of the city of Paris are among the most diverse and prestigious in the world. Anne Cartier-Bresson will describe the challenge of enhancing and preserving the city's photographic heritage, while undertaking initiatives to make these collections accessible to a broad and enthusiastic public. Anne Cartier-Bresson is the founder, chief curator, and director of the Atelier for the Restoration and Conservation of Photographs of the City of Paris (ARCP), a public agency responsible for helping the city’s public collections restore and conserve photographs and negatives, while still making them accessible to the public.

Mike Winder
Getty Communications Department

# # #

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Sign up for e-Getty at to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

Visiting the Getty Center: The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is 310-440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.