Storing Family Photographs
Learn the best ways to store and organize cherished and historic family photographs.
Most of us have treasured family photos needing care and safe storage. The enemies? Humidity, fingerprints, light, and dust all damage photographs. It's especially important to not only handle photos with care, but also to give special attention to how you store and display them.
One thing to remember is to keep all photographic images out of attics and basements.
Organization of pictures can also be problematic. How many of us throw our prints or slides into a shoe box or up on a shelf to pile up and collect dust and later try to find a particular photo hidden somewhere in the neglected pile?
The tips on the following pages will help you enjoy and keep your treasured photographs safe for years to come.
- Handle prints by edges only.
- Keep loose photos in containers in cool, dry places.
- The packet enclosing developed prints works for storage, especially if you keep it in the outer envelope.
- On the envelope, mark the dates (if they aren't printed on the print) and the subject of the contents. Never write on the surface of a print; write on the back only with special photographic marking pens.
- Store in acid-free paper or inert plastic boxes, separated by date or subject. Put a package of silica gel inside the box to absorb moisture.
- Reprinting from negatives results in better quality than copying photos themselves, so keep negatives safe.
- Never touch the surface of negatives and never cut them apart.
- Use uncoated polyester or polypropylene sleeves enclosed in paper envelopes for storage; and indicate which set of pictures came from the negatives.
- Keep in a dust-resistant case or import the disk of negatives to your hard drive for digital storage.
- Remember that slides are originals and no negatives of these transparencies exist.
- Protect slides by storing them in acid-free or metal, baked-enamel-finish boxes or in polypropylene slide pages.
- Leaving slides in projector carousels subjects them to moisture, which causes warping, and dust contamination.
Turn to technology if you want to bring damaged or old photographs or tintypes back to life. Ask for estimates -- restoration, not just copying, can be expensive.
Restorers use digital scanning, a computer, and darkroom processes to rebuild images damaged by cracks, water, or missing portions. Most offer hand-tinting.
Here are some of the options that professional restoration can offer: - Reusable negatives - Choice of print paper - Choice of finish -- sepia-tone, tinted, enhanced color, black and white - Enlargement or reduction to any size photo paper - Unlimited number of archival copies
Framing: Mat favorite photos for framing with lignin (wood pulp)-free, 6- to 8-ply mounting board. Attach with archival-quality adhesives. The frame should be deep enough so that the image does not touch the glazing that filters ultraviolet light; otherwise, processing chemicals can cause the photo to adhere to the glazing. Use a moisture barrier behind the mat if the frame will hang on an outside wall.
Avoid environmental extremes such as exposure to intense light (direct sun) or ultraviolet light (mercury-vapor lamps) or exposure to high humidity (bathrooms and kitchens).
Here are four safe types of storage for your treasured photographs.
Archival boxes: These work well if you keep loose photographs, negatives, or slides. Add labels. Organize with acid-free glassine sleeves to preserve your memories.
Leather albums: Choose classic albums if you display them with your books. Select archival albums; if pages are magnetic, check for PVC-free plastic. Use pH-neutral adhesive.
Flip display boxes: Enjoy current snapshots -- new baby, trip, big event -- that you like to flip though or show to friends. Designed for quick updates with new photographs.
Fabric albums: Ask for acid-free paper and archival glue and photo corners. Check that page protectors are archival-quality to avoid having them stick to or discolor photos.