Corbis opens the Sygma Preservation and Access Facility. The new facility outside Paris will preserve Sygma’s extraordinary photo collection for more than a thousand years, while making images accessible for photographers, researchers, iconographers, historians and creatives worldwide. Sygma is one of the greatest collections of documentary photography in the world. It forms an invaluable historical record of important people and events in France, Europe and around the world.
The announcement was made at an event held at the new facility, attended by photographers, photo editors, government representatives, and executives from Corbis and Locarchives. Locarchives is the document management company that built the facility.
The Sygma Preservation and Access Facility, a culmination of over five years of work, ensures that the collection’s 50 million negatives, prints, colour transparencies, and contact prints are carefully preserved and easily accessible.
“The Sygma Preservation and Access Facility is a testament to our commitment to preserving the profoundly important Sygma collection,” said Gary Shenk, CEO, Corbis. “So many talented photographers have contributed to Sygma, and we are honoured to safeguard and make accessible these treasures for today and the future.”
With the help of Henry Wilhelm, an expert in the long-term preservation of photographs, Locarchives designed and built a specialized preservation facility dedicated to the Sygma collection located in Garnay, approximately 45 minutes outside Paris. The 800-square-metre facility has approximately 7,000 metres of shelving in a temperature and humidity-controlled, airtight environment with the latest in fire safety and security protections.
“The comprehensive analogue and digital preservation programme will systematically phase in minus 20°C, humidity-controlled cold storage to halt gradual colour fading and prevent deterioration of the acetate plastic film base of the irreplaceable photographic originals,” said Wilhelm. “To preserve the high-resolution digital scans made of the photographs and the digital camera captures produced by photographers in recent years, Corbis has provided secure servers that are backed-up offsite.”
“If the collection had remained in the uncontrolled, room-temperature conditions where it had been kept for so many years, it would have perished before the end of this century,” continued Wilhelm. “The new Sygma facility will preserve and make accessible the extraordinary legacy of the work of the Sygma photographers for the people of France – and for the world – for more than a thousand years into the future.”
While the originals can be accessed at the facility, Corbis has worked with photographers to identify and digitise the most significant images from the collection to make them available on the Corbis website. Over the past few years, Corbis has digitised 80,000 additional photographs to bring the total number from the collection available online to over 800,000.
Since Corbis began the initiative in 2004, a dedicated team of Corbis archivists have been reorganizing the collection to classify pictures by photographer rather than by theme. Editors have also been selecting new images to offer in improved digital formats. In addition to this, Corbis also contacted over 10,000 photographers to confirm that they wished to participate in the initiative. Meanwhile, Corbis identified a suitable location for the new facility and commissioned its construction.