Last June, I visited the Rochester Institute of Technology's Image Permanence Institute (IPI). The visit was a part of Atkins' ongoing research into providing the most useful long-term prints.
Looking at long term usefulness is a good idea. After all, if we are not printing archivally, why are we printing at all? The supply of images that will vanish is well handled by folks leaving their photos in unstable digital storage!
So we want something that is light fast for 100 to 200 years. Agreed. Well what if when you touched it, the image is easilly damaged? What if the surface felt beautiful and textured, like water colour paper, but this made it absorb pollutants at a great rate? How can we 'hand down' our prints without touching them?
It is a nasty conundrum that the most light fast, archival pigment ink printing, is also the most delicate.
But the fact is when it comes to pigment inkjet printing (Gicleé) it is less durable than wet process printing. Well processed, photographic silver-halide prints can survive relentless handling, heavily polluted atmospheres and even extensive flooding. It may only have an lightfast ceiling of 100 years, but it may be more likely to make 100 years.
So next time you are thinking about making a print, and you expect it to last. Think about how you are going to help it to last, storage, handling and display is equally as important as the choice of print type.
All the printing at Atkins is made on the best materials for their purpose, we purchase independently tested materials, we do testing ourselves. We are in business for the long term, so you can hand down your prints to future generations.