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How to Preserve Heirloom Photographs

Updated on November 13, 2015
Scrapbook: A Float-plane Trip in Alaska
Scrapbook: A Float-plane Trip in Alaska | Source

Preserving Photographs by Scrapbooking

Many of us love to record our adventures in scrapbooks, whether it's an exciting holiday we want to remember (and wish it could have lasted for ever), or important family occasions and landmarks.

Special albums with acid-free page-pockets are easily purchased for this - if we have any money left over after the holiday! It's a great way to preserve our photographs and memories and in later times they may become family heirlooms. Scrapbooking is time-consuming but fun and we can relive those happy occasions as we work on the pages and in the years ahead as well.

Scrapbooking also requires acid-free pages where the photographs can be placed so that they look artistic and interesting. For this, there is double-sided acid-free sticky-tape. There are even acid-free pens available for adding relevant descriptions, notes and dates as well as decorations on each of the pages.

Preserving Heirloom Photographs

Scrapbooking, especially for recent events is great - useful and fun. However, when it comes to heirloom photographs, only certain sized ones can be preserved in this way and with those that we have inherited it may not be the best option for several reasons.

  • We may have been inundated with far too many photographs so that it would be impossible to spend all the time needed to set them out and write long descriptions about each one.
  • Some of our heirloom photographs may be far too big to fit in a scrapbook.

What are the other options?

Photos and documents
Photos and documents | Source

Preserving Smaller Photographs

Smaller photographs - and documents, too, may be preserved by inserting them straight into acid-free pockets that are available and will fit into an album, if that is what you want to do with them.

It's probably best to at least add a sticker to the outside of each pocket with as much information as you can about its contents. Then it will be there to remind you when you look again and it will also be a record for future generations. If you choose to write on the back of the photograph itself, do remember to use an acid-free pen.

Above is an example of a photograph and document that will fit easily into the sleeves that are shown below; these will take photos and documents up to 8 X 10 in size and they have perforations at the sides for easy insertion into an album.

When the album is complete, it's a good idea to stick a label or write on the spine stating the contents. I must do that myself sometime! Some are labelled, but it's quite a time-consuming chore sorting through the numerous unlabelled albums in our household when I'm searching for a particular record.

8 X 10 Photo Pages
8 X 10 Photo Pages | Source
Glassine Paper
Glassine Paper | Source

Preserving Larger Photographs

Yes! I've inherited some of these, too! Some of you may have better ideas of what to do with these. Of course, some can be framed and hung on the wall well out of strong sunlight to prevent fading, but they can't all be hung for display.

My idea for the rest is to label them carefully - again with an acid-free pen. Do remember to add any dates that you may be able to find out.

Then I interleave them with sheets of glassine paper. This is special (again acid-free) paper that is available from most good art suppliers, as it's also useful for preserving art-work of a variety of media such a oil, watercolour and acrylic, as it will not stick to the work, even over time.

I'm afraid that after that my larger photographs either go flat in the bottom of my filing-cabinet, or flat on a shelf in my wardrobe.


  • It is a good idea to wrap the whole pile of photographs in glassine paper or something else that is silverfish and moth proof.
  • If a box of the right size is available that is also useful for storage as it offers protection from any possible damage to the corners and edges of the photographs.

1889, Nov. 13:  Letitia Jane Phillips' Wedding Day
1889, Nov. 13: Letitia Jane Phillips' Wedding Day | Source


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 weeks ago from Victoria, Australia

      Graham Lee: Thank you for your comment! Yes, it is.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 3 weeks ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Blossom. A very nice and helpful hub. Acid free seems to be the key.


    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 19 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      norlawrence: Thank you. It was lots of fun.

    • norlawrence profile image

      Norma Lawrence 19 months ago from California

      Great article. I learned a lot. Thanks

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Peggy W: Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed them. Those pens are useful - your suggestion of an acid-free matt board is a good one - a great idea. Now I'm wondering what the framer used when I had one done by a professional picture-framer.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Those are wonderful tips for preserving old photographs. I did not realize that there were acid free pens. Good to know! Acid free mat board should also be used if framing a photograph if one wishes to preserve it for a long time.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      word55: Well, yes, you could, but that would only add to the volume in my collection. Actually I sort of do that with photos I want to include in the books I write, as I copy them onto the computer and then try and get rid of all the marks and dust before using them. Hope you had a lovely Christmas and wishing you a great 2016!

    • word55 profile image

      Word 2 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Blossom, these are great ideas for preserving old prints. With all the photo technology today couldn't you copy the vintage pics on photo paper via computer and preserve them? I did that and even made extra copies. You only use up exessive ink. Happy Holidays!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: I do hope you are motivated and really get it done, it's such a satisfying feeling.

      Frank Atanacio: Thank you! I hope you had a lovely Christmas and wish you a great 2016.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      Happy Holidays!!!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I have a box of photos that need preservation such as this. THanks for the advice and motivation to get it done!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      ChitrangadaSharan: I'm so glad that you have found the tips useful. I hope you have fun preserving your photographs.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      These are very useful tips and advice to protect our old photographs!

      I have so many of them and it is so important to preserve them for the future generation.

      It is not possible to frame all of them and therefore your suggestions are worth following.

      Thank you so much!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      truthfornow: Yes, it's really important. My mother did a few, but I have so many photos that look interesting, but I haven't a clue who the people are. It's well worth putting in the time doing it.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 2 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I like the idea of writing a little description for future generations to know what the photos are actually about.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      aesta1: That's great. Scrapbooks keep for years and don't take up so much space. I know what you mean about the walls being crowded, as I also paint!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am sure I'll enjoy scrapbooking when I looked at all the things you can put together. Now, you've inspired me to do a scrapbook on some of these pictures I have boxed for years. I have framed some of my favourites but you're right, the frames are now crowding my walls.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      annart: I'm so glad that you enjoyed it and found it useful. Our family photographs can be a treasure trove for those who are historically minded. Thank you for your comments.

      brakel2: Yes, sometimes our old photos were not so well cared for, but it's amazing what can be done with them these days, even if it's photographing them and then cleaning them up so they can be preserved. It's fun to share and lovely to be helpful, too.

    • brakel2 profile image

      Audrey Selig 2 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

      This is a very interesting hub which provides a lot of good information. I wish I had kept old photographs when my mother died, but I do have some I can keep and restore. I have a very old professional photo that has kept so well, that I wish they were all like that. Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Audrey

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Superb advice, Bronwen. I have so many old family photos; I have scanned most of them, so they are kept on computer for future use, though the originals hold a charm all of their own of course. I'm lucky in that my father kept them all carefully as he was a great photographer himself so appreciated their function as historical documents. It's all too easy to let these valuable documents perish so thanks for the valuable advice.


    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It definitely makes sense to label everything. Very good ideas on saving photos and other keepsakes for posterity.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the tips. I have inherited my husband's family photos from his mother and grandmother and her mother and they are old, well cared for and lovely. I wish to organize them and keep them in good condition.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Sorry to be so slow with my response, I've been away. Thank you so much for your comments - I entirely agree!

      tirelesstraveler: I know the feeling - so am I, that's why I'm beginning to work on them, it's slow, but it's certainly worth it for future generations.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 2 years ago from California

      Your tips are wonderful. My only problem is I am inundated with pictures.

      I have my grandma's, my mom's and 40 years of marriage worth of pictures. I love going through them, but there are so many.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      Blossoms thank you for the tips, true we can save our memories on disks and hard drives, but the beauty of saving it using your format is really 2nd to none.. bless you

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      AliciaC: Yes, I didn't know they existed before, but it makes sense and it's great that they're available. Thank you for your comment.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing the useful tips, Blossom. I especially like the one about using an acid-free pen. I've never thought of this before.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Larry Rankin: That's pleasing to 'hear.'

      always exploring: I'm so glad that it's useful for you. It's fun to share, too.

      Genna East: Heirloom photographs are such a privilege to have, but they're a responsibility as well, and we do need to care for them for following generations. Thank you for your comments.

      MsDora: Thank you! I can use them as well! It's always a matter of trying to find the time, isn't it?

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great article and timely. Thanks for the suggestions; I can surely use them.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 2 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      We have a number of heirloom photos; and they can be challenging to store properly. Thank you for these helpful tips and advice. This hub is a treasure that will enable us to save our treasures.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is great Blossom. I have so many photographs, some pretty old. Thanks for sharing this with us. Very useful!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very useful.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 2 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Reynold Jay: That's great that you work on your photos - I should do more, rather than writing about it. thank you for liking my vintage photos.

      Ericdierker: I'm glad to be of help. Getting that 'roundtoit' can be a problem.

      pstraubie48: It is important, as we do need to preserve them for future generations. Thank you, all is well, just getting older and slower, and not commenting as often as I would like on Hubpages these days. God bless you, dear hub-friend.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Blossom this is so important...we all have the precious photos that are priceless and preserving them is something I especially try to do. I have learned some tips here today that I will put to good use.

      Thank you for sharing. Hoping all is well with you.

      Angels are on the way ps

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great stuff,

      I need to get to this, thanks for the great tips and advice.

    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 2 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      Great advice and it is something I work on from time to time. Love the vintage photos in your HUB.