Preserving and Protecting Your Photographs
Do you have boxes of dusty photos given to you by mom, grandma or Aunt Ethel? Maybe you’re the caretaker of a treasured family album? Or do you have a collection of photos you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren?
There is something special about photographs. They help us recall our past, so it’s important to preserve and protect those that you value.
Why is preserving and protecting your photographs so important?
All photographs are subject to decay and destruction if not cared for properly. That means those treasured memories can be lost … forever!
All photographs fade over time. Traditionally processed black/white prints can last many years; however, color photos are susceptible to color change and fading in as few as 10 to 15 years.
Printed photographs face many things that can cause damage, including:
- Direct sunlight and heat
- Insects and rodents
- Adhesives that degrade over time
- Sulfur components can be given off by wood or rubber and trigger fading
- High humidity (fosters mold growth)
- Improper handling
- Natural disasters
- Household problems (Leaks, fires)
- Much, much more!
What does it take to preserve and protect your photos?
Photo preservation means: Any effort taken to keep and maintain or improve the condition of your photo collections that will counter or slow the natural effects of time and protect from manmade damage.
The most effective means of preservation are preventive in nature:
- Proper storage
- Storage environment
- Handling of the physical photograph
Caring for Your Photos Checklist
Store in a cool environment, one that does not experience rapid or extreme changes in temperature or humidity. (Nix storing in the basement or attic in otherwords!) High temps speed up chemical processes that can damage photos. When the heat fluctuates, it can cause photos to crack. Lower temperatures can lead to longer-lasting photos, less chemical decay and less insect or rodent infestations
Store away from bright light. When displaying photos, use UV filtering glass in the frame when possible.
Store away from radiators, vents and other heating apparatus.
Handle photographs by the edges or wear lightweight gloves made of a lint-free material (or nitrile gloves) when handling, especially those precious older photos. Human hands contain oils that can damage the prints. If you are working glove-free, be sure not to use any lotions.
Refrain from marking on the back of printed photographs. Use an archival safe photo pen if you need to.
When having your prints made, ask for long-lived paper to be used, if possible.
Never use rubber bands, self-adhesive tape or glue on photos.
Use acid-free boxes for storing photos and, if possible, keep negatives separate from the printed photos. Use archival-quality materials or preservation-quality boxes whenever possible. A true archival box is both acid-free and lignin-free.
Polyethylene or polypropylene bags or bins make great secondary protection against things such as water damage.
Check to see if your storage materials have passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).
Don’t overstuff boxes and use a spacer board if there are not enough items to fill an upright box.
Additional Blog Resources:
Photo Preservation Services
I help clients in all parts of the process, whether that means helping you downsize a large photo collection, developing back-up and preservation plans, sharing with the family or how to display those very special memories!
We are here to help you save, protect and share your memories.