Preserving Photographs

Starting Advice for Photographs of all Kinds

Find a Stable Place for Storage

Because photos hold beauty and memory (photo of boy and sheep)

Store paper items in a clean storage area where you can keep the temperature and relative humidity (RH) moderate and stable.  68 degrees Farenheit or less and between 30-40%. Lower temperature is best for color photos.  High (RH) and temperature speed decay; low humidity can crack, peel, or curl photos.  Provide good air circulation.  Check regularly for signs of pests.  Avoid attics and basements.  An air-conditioned room or closet is best.

Don't expose paper to fumes, plywood, cleaning supplies, or cardboard.  Avoid attics and basements and provide good air circulation.  Good housekeeping helps protect your treasures.  Check regularly for signs of rodents, silverfish, "book lice" and other pests; eliminate them if found.

Protect From Light

All light causes fading and other damage.  Store and display items away from natural and artificial light.  Many photos are particularly vulnerable.  Display framed items on interior walls away from sunlight and keep indoor lighting exposure to a minimum.  Use UV filtered glazing for frames. Alternately, make a copies of your photographs for display and keep the originals stored away away from all exposure to light.

 

This information applies only to photographic prints.  Learn about preserving digital photographs.

 

Further Resources

Simple Steps for Preserving your Digital Photos for Future Generations

Top 5 Things You Can Do to Care for Your Slides

The Wrong Kind of Paper Can Ruin Your Photo
A video from The Smithsonian with great tips for preserving family photos.

Caring for Your Photographic Collections
Library of Congress
Based on the Library of Congress’ preservation procedures, this leaflet includes best practices for preventing deterioration of photographs as well as storage suggestions for photographic material. The website also contains links to information on identifying photographic processes.

Graphics Atlas
Image Permanence Institute
A valuable tool for identifying and learning about the distinguishing characteristics of various photographic print processes.

Care of Photographs
Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)
This leaflet provides information on best practices for the care of photographs, namely through controlling environmental conditions, storage conditions, and handling. This is one of many printable Preservation Leaflets provided by NEDCC, covering a wide range of topics.

The Care and Preservation of Photographic Prints
Henry Ford Museum
A brief summary of the nature of both black and white and color photographs, followed by information on causes of deterioration and guidelines for care. This resource includes a print bibliography and a supplier list.

Photographs
Minnesota Historical Society
Information on storing and caring for photographs.

Storage Enclosures for Photographic Materials
Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC)
Another of NEDCC’s Preservation Leaflets, this guide contains information on the advantages and disadvantages of various types of paper and plastic storage enclosures for photographs.