Photographs act as your visual time capsule. They capture and commemorate family memories and life experiences, and these pictures provide you with endless hours of nostalgic enjoyment. It’s time well spent flipping through your treasured images to recall decades of memories as if they happened yesterday. And you’ve probably felt the heartbreak of realizing one of your favorite, multigenerational family photographs has faded beyond repair or torn due to improper storage.
But how can you ensure your photographs will last for generations? Turns out preserving your precious memories is easier than you think. Use these four easy storage tips to ensure your photographs remain a cherished keepsake.
Handle with Care
Photographs are sensitive to touch because the dyes and pigments used to create photographic prints are vulnerable to just about everything, including the lotion you use on your hands. Prior to handling your images, make sure to clean and dry your hands. You can also use white cotton gloves to protect your images, too. When picking up images, hold prints by their edges and avoid touching the picture itself. Fingertips contain oils that can leave behind a permanent mark.
Use Archival Photo Albums & Storage Containers
Photographs are also vulnerable to the glues, plastics, and acids found in many commercially available albums. Over time, these harmful materials degrade your irreplaceable images, causing them to yellow or stick to the album’s plastic cover. Instead, opt for acid- and PVC-free, archival photo albums. If you choose to store images in a box, separate each image with an acid-free paper or enclose the image in a PVC-free plastic sleeve, such as a sandwich bag.
Choose the Right Environment for Storage
Proper storage environment means storing your precious images in an area that is low in humidity – between 15% and 65% is ideal – and has a temperature that remains cooler than 75 degrees. A dry space with a cooler temperature helps slow down deterioration that happens as photographs age, such as cracking. With this in mind, consider using climate-controlled storage as a strategy to preserve your images.
Opt for a Dark Space
Similar to high temperatures and humidity, light can have a devastating impact on images. Ultraviolet rays break down the chemicals used in the photographic development process, which causes the pigments and dyes to fade. Once your image fades, restoration is almost impossible without the help of a professional. Store your images in a place that is free of ultraviolet and fluorescent light, which can also damage images. And if you wish to display one of your favored images on a bookshelf, encase it in a frame that filters ultraviolet light to help protect it from fading.
To learn more about storing your most prized possessions, visit Storage Etc.’s blog.