The last roll of Kodachrome film is being processed today at a lab in Parsons, Kansas. Kodak stopped producing the chemicals and the film itself on 22 June 2009. The Kansas lab – the last one in the world still developing the film – has been working around the clock to process the last rolls before the developing machine is sold for scrap.
The excellent article in the New York Times about this milestone contains this quote: “It’s more than a film, it’s a pop culture icon,” said Todd Gustavson, a curator from the George Eastman House, a photography museum in Rochester in the former residence of the Kodak founder. “If you were in the postwar baby boom, it was the color film, no doubt about it.”
If you’ve got 20th-century family photographs, then you have Kodachrome in your collection. Professional photographers favored Kodachrome because of its brilliant color accuracy and professional archivists valued its stability, particularly as compared to other color film.
To care for your Kodachrome, store it in complete darkness and in a cool, dry environment. Avoid temperature extremes found in attics, basements, and garages.
Digitizing Kodachrome slides is a good idea because the mounts – usually cardboard – can cause deterioration of the image. But scanning Kodachrome slides can be tricky. Uncorrected scans usually have an off-putting bluish cast. Some scanning applications have presets to help adjust, but additional care must be taken because scratches, dust and defects will also be digitized.
Libraries and archives usually find it more cost-effective to out-source the scanning of slides. Look for a local firm and ask them where the scanning is done before handing over any unique family images with sentimental value.