From the earliest examples of human-created images – such as depections of Bison and other animals that were painted from 14,000 to 40,000 years ago the walls of the Altimira cave in Cantabria, Spain – images and texts have been preserved as physical objects. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are more than 2,000 years old and consist of carbon based ink inscribed on parchment, lay hidden in caves in the Qumran area near the Dead Sea in Israel until they were discovered in 1946. Preserved in earthen jars in the low-humidity desert environment, the Dead Sea Scrolls are important historical examples of records made with intrinsically long-lasting materials. In the digital age, for the first time in human history, most images and textual information are no longer being preserved as physical objects. Instead, digital images and other records are stored as coded electronic files using the ever-changing technology of hard drives, solid-state flash memory, and magnetic tape systems. Archivists refer to such records as "machine-readable records," which require very specific software and electronic hardware preserved with the digital records to enable future retrieval, viewing, and printing in the future. In contrast, photographic prints and photobooks are physical objects that require neither special hardware nor software to be viewed. Archivists call these "human-readable records." Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, images and texts made with inherently stable materials, can be preserved, accessed, and viewed for thousands of years into the future without any technological aids. This paper discusses the evolution of accelerated aging tests for traditional and digital photographic prints and photobook pages, beginning with the classic 1970 paper by Peter Z. Adelstein, C. Loren Graham, and Lloyd E. West, "Preservation of Motion-Picture Color Films Having Permanent Value," published in the Journal of the SMPTE, which describes the application of predictive accelerated multi-temperature Arrhenius test to evaluate the dark storage permanence properties of color films stored at different temperatures, Utilizing data from accelerated aging tests, guidance is provided in the selection of the longest lasting materials to produce digital photographic prints and photobook pages. When carefully displayed and stored, these printed images and texts – like the Dead Sea Scrolls – can last far into the future.
Henry Wilhelm, Kabenla Armah, Barbara C. Stahl, Carol Brower Wilhelm, "Evaluation of the Long-Term Permanence of Digital Photographic Prints and Photobook Pages" in Proc. Int'l Symp.on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment, 2013, pp 20 - 20, https://doi.org/10.2352/ISSN.2169-4672.2013.4.1.art00007