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How to Preserve Old Photographs--- Keeping your photos safe!

Updated on October 2, 2010

A couple of months ago on safari for a job to do, that would justify not dealing with the piles of paperwork on my desk (for your information I am the president of Procrastinators Inc.). I remembered the big giant sized cardboard box that came over from my Mom's house. I knew it was filled with tons of memory photos that I had not been able to deal with before.

The ‘crate' was filled with a couple of dozen of photo-albums, eight shoeboxes and 5 baskets all pilled full with photographs and negatives. Who on earth is that? Oh! Wasn't I just the cutest...? I wonder if this one could get enlarged.

I've been told that storage is the key to preserving photographs, old and new alike. The dented, ragged shoeboxes and baskets overflowing with pictures just won't do.


A definite No-No
A definite No-No

What's wrong with an old shoebox?

The degradation of old prints has many reasons and variables. Heat, cold, humidity, air pollutants even minute airborne salt at the sea-coasts can be harsh on them. It also should be mentioned that deterioration can be caused by some olden day techniques where chemicals were not mixed quite right.

Poorly stored pictures become faded, brittle and stained looking.

The ideal temperature to keep photos is around 68 - 72 degrees Fahrenheit. That means the attic is not a suitable place for the many copies of Uncle Fred in his hula skirt. Humidity encourages growth of microorganism and will give the prints a grayish film that spreads under the glaze and also makes them sticky. All in all, if one is lucky enough to have old family pictures going back decades plus, then one is obligated to sort and place them in good quality albums or boxes made especially for photographs.

Extra tip


Rem: to check that the paper touching the prints is of low acidity and PH level. The basement, or crawl space under the house is not ideal either because of the damp air, also insects and rodents love the flavour of photos.

I also read somewhere that laminating is not a good way to preserve photos either as the heat treatment will cause discoloration. And the cold lamination uses a chemical that will eventually cause brittleness.

Some of the older prints might look as if they're beyond help but that may not be so. Find a reputable photo-shop that uses today's technology. They have ways of restoring those old prints.Revamping damaged prints by copying, airbrushing etc. is a relatively new industry which can only grow as time goes on and more and more heirloom picture are brought in to be touched up and fixed.


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