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Personal Preservation Tips: Photographs

An overview of basic storage best practices to help with preserving personal photographs, papers and digital files.

How to store photographs

Photographs can be a tricky thing to save.  They begin discolor after a few years, stick together if packed too tight and begin to curl if not packed tight enough.

The basics:

  • It is very important you have clean hands and keep food and liquids away from the table.
  • Do not mark them with any type of marker or pen, instead make a list on a separate piece of paper and keep photos from the same things together in folders.  
  • Use folders instead of paper clips, fasteners, or staples since these can rus and damage the photos faster.   Same goes for rubber bands and glue.  
  • Scan selected images you want to share with others or ones most valuable to you.  That way if something happens to the original, you'll hopefully be left with at least a digital copy.

Storage

  • Keep your photos stored in acid free boxes and folders.
  • Don't pack them together in the box so tight that you have trouble taking them out, but tight enough that there isn't too much extra room to that give the photos a chance to curl.
  • While keeping pictures in boxes organized in folders is best
    • You might be tempted to store the pictures in a photo album, and if you really want to, see if you can find one without the glue backing on the pages.  This glue is not good for the photographs and will make it very difficult for you to remove the photos from the book in teh future (trust me, I've done it many times).
    • Photo albums with the baseball card holders style sleeves are your best bet.  
  • Keep your boxed photos stored in a cool and dry place.  The best spot is in a closet and away from windows.  
    • Attics, basements, shelves that get direct sunlight deteriorate photos very quickly due to big changes in temperature and humidity.
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