Condition Grading

The intent of this guide is to define the grading scale used to note the condition of the photos in this collection. Grading of the cabinet cards and CDVs will conform to this guide and will be done conservatively. This guide is an attempt to introduce consistency to the grading process and is not meant for appraisal purposes or to be construed as definitive. Accuracy is not guaranteed. This is a living document and all ratings should reflect the current definitions.

The definitions below are adapted from Columbia University Libraries Survey of Special Collections Materials Project and have been modified to meet the specifics of cabinet cards and CDVs. Cards are graded for objective quality, not “for their age.” So a card rated “Good” is Good. Not, “Good for for a card that’s 140 years old!” For this reason very few cards will ever be rated “Excellent,” just as few cards will ever be noted as Terrible or Poor (the collecting policy would not generally allow for the acquisition of such cards). The majority of cards will be rated as Fair or Good and will be rated conservatively.


Terrible: Images show signs of mold growth or insect infestation. Prints show extreme acidity, fading, crumbling, water damage, or staining and significant information loss in any case. Image may be incomplete.


Poor: Photographic prints show significant fading, acid damage, staining, discoloration or dirt, folds, tears, or loss. Past water or pest damage may be evident but no active mold growth. If images are laminated to paper or board, boards show significant dirt or damage and are dangerously acidic. Material may be handled safely but will need preservation attention for continued access. Card may be trimmed to fit in a photo album.


Fair: Images may exhibit dirt, tears and creases or water damage. Fading has not progressed to loss of image or significant color information (a fade to complete monotone.) Acid damage is limited and embrittlement is not present. Prints may be mounted on acidic backings but show little acid bleed- through, though mountings can be fragmented, torn, or brittle. The faces of images may still show dirt, abrasions, or minor loss. Some foxing or other stains may be present. Minor creasing as long as it does not intersect primary image.


Good: Images may exhibit some fading or yellowing, but no scratches, tears or image damage. Mounting is intact (not trimmed). No creases.


Excellent: Like new. Little or no dirt, scratches or abrasions and negligible fading. If any materials are known to be acidic they are limited and in outstanding condition. Mounts are not apparently acidic and also intact and clean. An Excellent rating is rare.

Last updated 11/19/2018 by Christopher L. Jorgensen

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