How to store old family photos

How to store old family photos

This last weekend, I met up with a few of my old friends from my misspent youth! We arranged in advance to bring photos…, on Friday evening, I was searching for some old family photos, and it got me to thinking about how precious and important these things are, and yet, I have taken such bad care of them! They are no less precious than old family photos taken professionally in the studio or on location, but they seem to get less careful attention. Nowadays, people are tending more and more to want digital images on discs or memory sticks, as their preferred mode of storage (as it is deemed to be safer!) Whilst this may be true, thought is never given to what they would do if the disc or memory stick becomes corrupt! There is nothing like a photo print or an album of images  to remember people and places. Whenever we get the old albums out, my own children love to gather round and reminisce about days, holidays and people. AS we become more obsessed with technology and viewing photos on our mobile devices, we seem to isolate ourselves more and more. I don’t think there is a better way to create and build connections with people when sitting around looking at old photos. Photos are such brilliant, immediate reminders of days or people or places and I really believe their importance is undervalued. So, my task is to ensure that these wonderful souvenirs are kept as safe as I can make them to ensure their chances of survival. I thought I would share some

Tips about how best to store old family photos:

  • make sure that old family photos are kept away from exterior walls in the most stable environment so that the temperature is more constant and stable and really as cool as possible. Uninsulated lofts are probably the worst place as they experience high heat in the summer months and freezing temperatures and dampness in the winter, which will cause the photos to become brittle and crack.
  • if you have any of those ‘magnetic’ type albums that were so popular in the 70’s and 80’s, and the photos aren’t already trapped in, it would be worth spending the money to transfer your photos to better quality archival albums that have acid free paper (these are becoming more easily available now on the high street) It usually will say on the packaging that it is acid free.
  • In the same way, that you wouldn’t handle an watercolour or oil painting, be careful how you handle your photos, as the natural oils on your skin can erode the emulsion. Just handle the edges and the same for negatives, which are also fragile.
  • A good idea for smaller photo prints ( i.e under 8″ x 10″) is to store them on their edges in boxes in cool but constant (between 50 and 75 degrees F) temperature avoiding damp where mould is likely to develop.
  • keep your negatives separately so that if your old photos are lost or damaged you can have them reprinted.
  • Don’t write on the backs of photos unless you are using acid free pens, or alternatively write lightly using a soft lead pencil.
  • if you still shoot film, it is worth paying to have these developed professionally, rather than at an hour mini lab, as it is vital that fresh, uncontaminated chemicals are used (to ensure longevity.)
  • Don’t store photos with newspaper clippings as the newsprint will deteriorate the image. Best solution is to photocopy the newsclipping onto alkaline paper and store that away. Don’t use paper clips, though as they might scratch, and rubber bands may also have damaging chemicals in them.
  • Having said all that, it is also worth getting photos scanned and stored digitally…but keep more than one copy to allow for them becoming corrupt or other unpleasant  eventuality!

If you are interested in finding out more about all this, the Smithsonian museum website has some really useful and informative videos about some of the topics covered . Here’s a link showing how to extract your pics from the sticky magnetic books.




This entry was posted in Family Photography, Photography News.

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