Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte

All photos: Costică Acsinte Archive

A damaged, near-forgotten archive of images by Romanian photographer Costică Acsinte is being restored, with uncanny results.

While the pictures are undated and in a grave state, they provide an invaluable glimpse into the rich cultural history of 20th century Romania.

Born in 1897, Acsinte began his career as an official war photographer in World War I. As soon as the war ended, he opened a commercial studio in Slobozia, Romania. For the two decades following, he held the distinction of being the only professional photographer in the country and capturing the likenesses of thousands of Romanian people.

Sadly, after Acsinte died in 1984, his massive collection of more than 5,000 glass plate negatives and prints were improperly stored in wooden crates and subjected to outdoor elements. The Ialomița County History Museum in Slobozia acquired the crates' contents a year later, but the months of poor storage had already taken their toll on the delicate emulsions.

The damaged archive sat gathering dust for years until photographer Cezar Popescu stepped forward and convinced the museum to allow him to begin the painstaking process of restoring and digitizing the undated negatives.

"To me it just seem a shame to lose something so irreplaceable," Popescu said in an interview with Time magazine's LightBox blog.

Since beginning the Costică Acsinte Archive project, over a thousand images have already been salvaged and uploaded to Flickr Commons.

Here are just a few of the most sublime, haunting photographs found in the collection so far.

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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
 
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Restored and digitized photo by Costică Axinte
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Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.