In this age of digital photography, we sometimes forget about those “old-fashioned” print photos (or, if you’re under 30, you may not have a lot of experience with them). But the truth is, photographs, especially older ones, are fragile. If you want to preserve those precious prints for future generations, they need to be archived and stored properly.
Light, humidity, acidic materials and improper storage can irreparably damage photos; if you lose the digital original (or for older photos, the negative) that image—and a piece of your history—is gone forever. But with a few simple steps, the right archiving and storage materials and a little time, you can preserve those pictures for years to come.
First, you’ll need the proper materials:
- Clear, PVC- and acid-free photo sleeves
- Archivalware® Acid Free Tissue, which will protect prints from dust and abrasion
- Photo corners (no Scotch tape!)
- ClearBags™ storage bags, which are specially formulated and designed for long-term archival storage.
- Acid-free pens/markers
- Acid-free paper, mats and backboards
- Acid-free cardboard or metal boxes
Next, follow these simple steps to slow any damage:
- If you have photos stored in "magnetic" or peel and stick albums, remove them; you’ll probably already notice that the pages—and pictures—have started to yellow. If you want to store your pictures in albums, there are plenty on the market now that are made of acid-free paper. Use photo corners to mount the pictures.
- Using an acid-free marker (do not use a ball-point pen), gently label the back of each photo with the year the photo was taken and the full names of those in the photo. Your grandchildren will thank you!
- To store your photos in boxes, slip them into photo sleeves and layer them between sheets of tissue –preferably in chronological order—in the boxes. Label each box with dates, family names or places—any information that will make it easy to find a particular photo at a later time.
- Store photos in a dark, dry place, protected from humidity or extreme temperatures. In other words, keep them out of the attic or basement.
- For pictures you want to display, be sure to use acid-free, archival-quality mats and boards and conservation-grade glass that is glazed to protect photographs from harmful UV light rays. If you have photos framed professionally, be sure to ask for acid-free materials.
- Consider scanning print photos and keeping digital copies backed up on an external hard drive or CDs, just in case.
Print photographs are a joy to share and a beautiful way to tell your family’s stories and history. Take the time now to keep them safe. If you have questions, ask us. We’re here to help. Frame Destination carries a full line of photo storage supplies. We also have a great deal of expertise in conservation of artwork through framing. Learn more about conservation framing with our Guide to Preservation Framing of Photographs on our website.