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I have a lot of old family negatives from the 80s and 90s that have a strip of paper thoroughly stuck to the top. Why was this done, and is there a safe way to remove it?

negative with paper attached

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your update would better fit as an answer instead of being part of the question (you can post answers to your own questions). \$\endgroup\$
    – luator
    Jan 24, 2023 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, you're right. I didn't realize that was possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lynx
    Jan 24, 2023 at 20:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd be more concerned with those nasty scratches in the center of the negative. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 26, 2023 at 6:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm hoping wet mounting will help. These weren't stored very well unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lynx
    Jan 27, 2023 at 17:59

4 Answers 4

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That paper is for handling and filing (note the holes!) the negative strips. It's usually glued to the negatives with something like a narrow tesa film, you should be able to simply tear it of carefully. (But why would you want to?)

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    \$\begingroup\$ You might want to remove it for use with film scanners. I once had a nice SCSI Nikon. There was no way you'd get the negatives in that with a strip of paper on there. I removed it with a scalpel a couple of times \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Jan 23, 2023 at 9:45
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I found this can be cleanly peeled off as long as you're careful. The negative is sandwiched in the paper, and one side isn't adhered - so fold that down, and it peels off without too much force.

negative with paper attached

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The paper strip was applied by the photofinisher as they were using high-speed color printer machine. The paper interacts with the film feed mechanism of the printer. The paper interacts with the film frame cutting machine that cuts the film into strips without cutting into an image frame. It is only applied to the edge of the film thus it does no harm. If you feel you must, you can trim the paper with scissors down to the edge of film. I can think of no reason to remove the paper portion that is adhered to the film with glue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The paper would certainly impede putting the film into many film scanner carriers. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jan 23, 2023 at 9:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, this is interesting and sounds like the more likely explanation. I want to remove it so they'll fit in protective sleeves, plus it gets in the way of scanning, as others have stated. \$\endgroup\$
    – Lynx
    Jan 23, 2023 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why not trim the paper with scissors cutting the paper off at films edge? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24, 2023 at 3:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AlanMarcus Some consumer grade film scanners might not be able to accommodate the increased thickness? But most would be able to scan it if it is trimmed even with the edge of the film. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jan 26, 2023 at 6:03
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Posting this as an answer, but use this information at your own risk as I've never tried this! I would try PEC-12 – it's a photographic emulsion cleaner. Read the FAQ online. I've never seen these strips glued to negatives like that.

PEC-12 is designed to remove non-water based stains, grease and inks from photographic emulsions and bases. It removes finger oils, grease pencil, adhesive tape residues, mildew, smoke and soot damage, gold foil stamp and most ball-point and permanent inks. It will aid in the removal of firmly affixed adhesive tape.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If using film cleaner, I'd work with the negative mounted vertically, paper strip down, and only apply the solvent to the paper tape (especially along the top edge). While the cleaner itself might not leave a residue, if it dissolves anything from the glue and then evaporates, whatever it dissolved will be left on the negative - and such redeposited material can be pretty hard to completely shift \$\endgroup\$
    – Chris H
    Jan 23, 2023 at 9:47

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