Old Photo Albums: DIY Organizing and Preserving Ideas

Written by Mark Rogers

Old photos tell the story of years gone by. They freeze cherished moments in time, featuring a cast of characters who may no longer be around. For many people, old photo albums are the most treasured item they possess. Unfortunately, time is a cruel mistress. Old photo albums are susceptible to damage and degradation, risking the loss of these memories forever. Here's what you can do to organize old photo albums and ensure your cherished memories stand the test of time.

Sort Out the Keepers

It may seem controversial, but not all of your photos in your photo albums are worth keeping. Doubles, low-quality images, and moments that have no sentimental value are just taking up space. Start your photo album preservation product by sorting out which photos to keep and which to discard.

When choosing which photos to keep, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know everyone in this photo, and does their presence in your life have meaning?
  • Are there multiple copies or similar shots of this photo
  • Can you name the time or place this photo was taken?
  • What emotions does this photo bring forth?
  • How is the quality of this photo?

Choosing which photos to keep will be subjective. If you have a bunch of high-quality photos from high school with people you no longer consider friends, you might decide to discard them. Alternatively, if you have a blurry photo of your grandfather who passed away, it might mean the world to you.

Consider setting a pile of photos aside to offer to friends and family members who might have an emotional connection to the people or events featured.

Digitize the Top Photos

The biggest challenge with preserving aging photos is their fragile nature. Once you've sorted out the photos you want to keep from your albums, digitize and store them on the cloud.

This exercise has numerous benefits. First and foremost, you'll always have a copy of those treasured images, and they won't be susceptible to sun damage or tearing. Digitizing the images also takes up less space in your home and makes them easier to share. Finally, digital photos are more versatile for creating memories and heirloom projects as gifts and keepsakes.

Create a Grouping Strategy

Now that you've digitally stored your images, it's time to put away the original copies. Create a grouping strategy to sort and label your images. One of the most common ways to break down photos into groups is by time. From there, you could divide them into specific events or featured people.

Taking the time to organize your images with structure will help you pull photos as needed without making a mess.

Use Photo-Safe Storing Methods

One of the pitfalls of old photo albums is that they don't use photo-safe materials. Those sticky pages and clingy plastic sheets can actually contribute to degradation over time.

Remove your old photos from the albums and use photo-safe materials to store them. All paper and packaging should be acid-free such as these protective clear bags which are museum quality, acid-free and lignin-free or these archival photo storage boxes that are great for photos, prints, documents, artwork and collectables (like comic books and magazines). You can order other materials online or from a local crafting shop.

It's also worth practicing safe handling practices as you go through this process. Keep liquids and food away from your images, and always wash your hands to remove any oils and residue. When handling old photos, consider wearing white photo-handling gloves to limit the transfer of any natural oils from your skin. These oils can discolor or break down your old pictures over time.

Store the Originals Safely

Once you've removed the albums and put a filing structure in place, it's time to sort the originals safely. In addition to using photo-safe labels and packaging, you'll also want to protect the originals from the elements. Store your originals in an airtight tote to save them from sunlight, moisture, and temperature fluctuations.

A rugged tote is a must if you'll be storing your originals in an attic or basement. Rodents and pests are attracted to bundles of paper and clutter and may try to chew into a cardboard box to nest.

Create Keepsakes to Share and Display

Once you have digital copies and safe originals, you can start to put together keepsakes and projects to share and display. Print your favorite copies to frame on your wall with custom frames or create photo books to share with family members. 

With this simple process, you can preserve your images and create a beautiful tribute to those wonderful memories.

Last Updated August 7, 2021

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