By Christina VanGinkel
Some photos turn out to be very special, when compared to others, though we often do not realize this until long after the photo was taken. Because of this small fact, it is of utmost importance to care for all of our photographs as if they were of the same high priority as those that mean the world to us. Dumping them in a cardboard box, or a plastic shoe saver is not only how not to store them, it can even be damaging to them. Photographs need to be stored in containers that are acid free, and free of several other harmful properties including peroxides and wood fibers. The easiest way to be sure they are in storage containers that will not harm them is to purchase those that are marked museum or archival save. This goes for all materials that they will be exposed to while they are in storage. Many old style magnetic albums are not safe for photos, and that is why many of the photos stored in albums such as these are now, some twenty to thirty years later already turning yellow and fading dramatically. If you have old photos stored in albums such as these, remove them immediately and move them to proper storage containers. If some are already damaged to the point that you feel they cannot be salvaged, try scanning them and reprinting. Many good software products are available that may be able to help you restore them to their former glory.
Temperature and humidity levels are also important to a photograph's health. Temperature is recommended to be no higher than 70 to 75 degrees, with a humidity level of no more than fifty. Some experts will even recommend a humidity level of no more than 30, especially for long-term storage. This is why museums have such strict guidelines for temperature and humidity levels, as these two things if left to their own devices, can quickly cause irreparable damage.
Handling photographs often can also be damaging to them, as the oils on our own hands can be strong enough to cause irreparable damage. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling. Negatives and slides are especially sensitive to oils found on the hands, and I have always been told it is practical to wear a simple pair of cotton gloves before handling, to keep them from deteriorating or becoming damaged.
Where you place your storage containers, can also have an adverse effect on your photos. Do not store them in a closet that has mothballs, or stack them in a basement or garage where they may be exposed to cleaning solvents, or other odorous materials. Be sure you do not hang framed pictures in direct sunlight either, as the sun can cause the ink in a photograph to break down drastically quicker than if the same photograph were hung out of the direct sunlight.
When storing photographs in a scrapbook album, be sure to use only acid free products, including all papers, embellishments, and adhesives, as anything that comes in contact with your photos that is not acid or lignin free, can cause damage.