5 on the fly: how to store and preserve your precious photographs

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by Sarah Halfpenny

 If you’re anything like me, you have literally thousands of photos in your possession. Some in frames and some in albums, but most shoved into envelopes and boxes. Here are some practical tips on how to ensure these delicate and irreplaceable mementos are passed on down the generations …

  •  Both the paper and ink that photos are printed with can degrade over time. Store them in a dark environment (away from UV and fluorescent light) with a consistently low temperature (below about 24 degrees Celsius), and with low humidity (between 15–65% relative humidity). Attics, sheds and garages are not good choices due to their large fluctuations in these elements.


  • Photos can be prone to attacks from insects and rodents, and water damage is a common hazard so store them off the floor to avoid small floods and stop vermin getting easy access. Keep watch for leaks and damp areas too.


  • It sounds simple but it’s really important – avoid over-handling your photos and negatives and putting fingerprints (which contain natural oils and sometimes chemicals from lotions) directly on them. Make sure your hands are clean and dry when sorting through your photos.


  • What you choose to store your photos in is paramount. Cheap albums and boxes or gluing and taping your photos onto surfaces is a quick route to disaster. Archival quality paper, albums and boxes are the key – they’ll be free from acid and PVC. You can start your search for options here.


  • Once you have proper archival quality containers, the next step is to correctly fill them. Overfilling an album or a box can cause photos to be bent or fall out, while underfilling them can also damage them if they move around too much or curl at the edges. If the humidity and temperature is controlled, loosely stacking photos flat in a box is fine, or use dividers to stand them up.



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