Preserving the Photography of the Braun Sisters
Posted On: 03/22/2017 - 4:44pm, Posted By: Jim DaMico, Curator of Audio-Visual Collection
Sisters Annette and E. Lucy Braun were scientists who lived and worked in Cincinnati, Ohio during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Annette was born on August 28, 1884 and her younger sister Emma Lucy, or E. Lucy as she became known, was born on April 19, 1889.
During a time when few women in the United States pursued higher education as a career, each of the Braun sisters became respected scholars and researchers of their fields. Annette, an entomologist, in 1911 became the first woman to earn her PhD. from the University of Cincinnati. Her younger sister Lucy became the second woman to earn a PhD, this time in the study of botany graduating from the University in 1914.
The Braun sisters were at the forefront of the land conservation movement and were instrumental in preserving The Edge of Appalachia in Adams County, Ohio and fought a valiant fight to preserve land from mining and lumbering interests in Kentucky through the “Save Kentucky’s Primeval Forest League”.
The Annette and E. Lucy Braun Papers, were transferred from the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History to the Cincinnati History Library and Archives at Cincinnati Museum Center in 1996.
The collection consists of the sisters’ professional correspondence, research writing, notebooks and an extensive photograph collection. The heart of the photograph collection consists of 14 volumes of photo albums that document their research travels across the United States beginning in 1909. Many of the images in the volumes have been reproduced in books about the sisters and their work.
The Braun sisters have been getting renewed attention from a variety of regional groups including Voyageur Media Group and Meg Hanrahan Media who are producing the documentary, Lucy Braun: Pioneer Ecologist. Cincinnati Museum Center’s History Library and Archives is collaborating with Voyageur and Meg Hanrahan to provide archival photographs from the Braun sister’s collection for use in the documentary. This is also the 100th anniversary of the Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society, an organization that Lucy was a leader in at the beginning.
In order to provide access to the photograph collection, we must first assess the collection. When images were first requested from the collection it was discovered that there was no order to it and the condition was unknown. Quickly we realized that the photo albums were too fragile to safely view because many of the photographs had become loose due to dried out adhesive and the pages could not lay flat. What to do then? We decided that the best course of action was to dis-bind only the albums that were bound with screw posts or string. All pages were given a number written in brackets  and placed into individual folders. The next step was to do a condition assessment of each page noting the images that needed conservation. We then created a minimal catalog record of the photos on each page, notating which photographs have people present and identifying them when known and how many photographs are on a page. The end result is a fully described record of each page that will include the total number of photographs in the collection and the condition of each page. Finally, we perform basic stabilization of individual photographs by re-adhering them to the page using neutral pH PVA (Polyvinyl Acetate) adhesive.
All of this work is being done prior to digitizing the albums which is being funded through the generosity of the Anness Family Charitable Fund. We are also in the planning stages of creating new “access” photo albums for patrons to view.
The following images show one album prior to removal of its string binding and illustrating the condition of photographs.
SC330_Volume 2_Closed. Notice the frayed edges of the pages.
SC330_Volume 2_The Mineral Springs of Adams County, Ohio title page. All of the captions and drawings are done in a white china pencil. On the opposite page you can see the transfer of the drawing in pencil.
SC330_Volume 2_Open. Showing Text Block and Loose Photographs.
SC330_Volume 2_Page 5_ Close up of loose photographs due to the adhesive drying out.
SC330_Volume 2_ Mineral Springs. Photographs pulling away from page due to dried out adhesive.
New archival box.
View showing archival folders with individual album pages.
SC330_Vol2_p5. Photographs that have been re-adhered using PVA.
SC330_Vol2_p7. Panoramic photographs that have been re-attached at the hinge.
Stay tuned for an article on cataloging the Annette and E. Lucy Braun Photograph Collection.