This is macabre. I doubt many conservators have dealt with the technical issues of this “print” medium.

Foto8: “The tattoo collection at the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland consists of 60 objects preserved in formaldehyde […] The tattoos were collected from the prisoners of the nearby state penitentiary on Montelupich Street as well as from the deceased on whom autopsies were performed.”

The tattooed skin was preserved in order to decipher the codes within the images:

In the 1970s, the CSI Department of Militia Headquarters in Warsaw published a special document only for prosecution agencies in which they analysed 2300 tattoos, including those from the collection at Jagiellonian University. For over four years, the researchers looked at prisoners, soldiers and criminals who served sentences in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Germany and the USSR. A catalogue that precisely described the meanings behind certain tattoos was created.

It should be said, figuring out what messages are involved in prison tattoos is common across all nations, systems and eras. Although, this is the first collection I know of that separated the tattoos from corpses.