Where might you find it?

Nitrate film can be found in collections and archives containing photographic still and roll film dating from the 1890s. Nitrate film was manufactured by several companies usually in professional formats, both colour and black-and-white processes, and particularly as x-ray film. Although nitrate film production was largely discontinued in the early 1950s, film stocks continued to be used for many years afterwards.

Occasionally nitrate film has found other uses – for example, in objects that were designed or intended to easily catch fire.

Incendiary igniter ‘Molotov Cocktail’ utilising a strip of nitrate film
© Imperial War Museum

Detail of a ‘Selfac’ self-activating fire extinguisher with cellulose nitrate filaments
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Although not considered here, cellulose nitrate plastics have also been used in a wide variety of objects with similar instabilities, degradation and emission of acidic chemicals that can cause harm to people and museum objects.