Exposing Writing on the Back of an Old Photo

Dear Donia,
How do I expose writing on an old photo?

writing on back of photo


Q. Dear Donia,

I have an old photograph with writing on the back, but unfortunately somebody scribbled over the writing. Is there a way to safely expose the original writing? Would a UV light damage the photograph? Thanks, Lisa

A. Dear Lisa,

It is hard to say if UV light would help you see the original writing without knowing what sorts of ink are involved. And, yes, UV light, if used for too long, can damage a photograph. 

UV light is one way to get below the surface and see what is hidden but there are other ways too that involve different spectrums of light. Luckily, near you in Philadelphia is the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA, Digitization & Reproduction | Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts). They provide digital services to help enhance materials and may be able to help you. I would recommend you contact them for an assessment.