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Using Photo Preservation to Stop Time

Aug 27, 2008
Photo preservation can be a complex process that requires lots of patience, knowledge, and care. When people handle their pictures and negatives, they do many things, unintentionally, that are very harmful to them, and most do not even know they are damaging their photos. Besides sticking fingers all over the pictures, there is more than fingerprints that can slowly destroy your paper memories. Pictures are actually made of gelatin and tiny silver particles. This makes them susceptible to bug infestation, mold, mildew, and humidity.

Unfortunately, many things that are made for use with pictures are the very things that hasten their disintegration. Many picture boards, cardboards, and most glue contain an acid that slowly eats away at the pictures. Even the chemicals that are used to develop the film from negatives are to blame for the eventual demise of these photographs.

Photo Preservation: Safe Handling
The most common problem that causes photographs to be lost is one that is simple to remedy: Lack of Identification. Who in the next generation would keep pictures around full of people and places they know nothing about? The first tip for preserving pictures is when you do write identifiers on them, use India ink or a carbon ink pen. Many other regular pens contain chemicals that will eventually ruin the photo. Dont use oily erasers, and never write on the front of the picture, with the exception of special paints designed to do so. Most people are commonly aware that sunlight will ruin photographs, so be careful where you place your pictures in their frames.

Never use rubber cement to adhere photographs to anything. The acids in rubber cement will ruin the picture quickly, cracking the emulsion and paper backing. Rubber cement contains sulfur, which reacts with the silver that sentences pictures to certain death! Do not use the photo albums that have the self-adhesive pages covered by clear plastic film. The glue, again here too, is acidic. Never display your pictures in vinyl sleeves. The sleeves are made out of a certain type of plastic that will cause both color and black and white photos to fade.

Photo Preservation: Safe Storage:
Art supply stores and photo shops are excellent places to find photo-friendly supplies for your pictures. Many times, pictures that you want to keep in storage are done so by putting them in any old bag or a box. There are boxes specifically designed for storage, but be careful; to keep photographs safe for many years, look for containers that are labeled as safe for archival storage.

Also, keeping them in metal filing cabinets is ok too, or at least better than in a cardboard or wooden box. Once you have specifically-designed boxes for the pictures, be sure to keep them in a cool, relatively dry place. Finally, never keep your photos, no matter what kind of storage box they are in, on floors or in damp basements.
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