Photo Preservation Why and How

Like American and World Wide Organizations, Families have become aware, that there is a problem with the future survival of modern day photographic and printed images. Much research has gone into techniques for their preservation. We will try to include here some of those Ideas.

Like these agencies it is important for you to take inventory of your families photographic images, and determine what is important to preserve of your family heritage for the future.

During the first half of the last century the pictures were fiber (quality paper) based photographs that were for the most part archival, the second half of the century, with the advent of plastic coated photographs, both black & white and color, the durability changed. Prints, especially color, relied on dye for their image, where the old fiber based images relied on the metal “silver” to produce the image. With these changes came the question of how long will the plastics last, and what about the dyes in the color photographs or even those instant camera (Polaroid) prints, will they remain. Just look at your early color photographs for your answer. Now we have digital cameras, and ink-jet printers, and while this is great for those quick photos, how stable will the prints be on the paper now available, or even the dyes in the ink-jet printers. All of this poses question to be considered, in the protection of those images we hold of high value. Many people are burning CD’s and DVD’s of their photographs, and sharing them with family. While this is good, hard drives, CD’s and DVD’s also lack long term storage reliability. What about those prints that are failing, or have been damaged. or are in danger, from damage, lets look at the options.

Maintain a suitable environment.

* Minimize handling your photographs with bare hands, or have them matted or mounted.
* Consider the storage container, avoid acidic surroundings. Mats, folders, and mounting adhesives must be chemically stable, non-staining and permanent, but removable.
* Framing and matting done prior to 1980, is likely to have been done with questionable materials. (Browning of the cut edge of the framing/matting material is an indication of trouble).

Essentials of Proper framing.

* Mat, window and backboard should be of 100% rag-board or lignin-free, alkaline-buffered mat-board.
* Mounting should not be with commercial tape. (cellophane, masking or duct tapes)
* Items should be covered with protective glazing, either glass or rigid acrylic.
* The artwork must not be in direct contact with the glazing material.
* Ultraviolet filtering products, available in glass as well as plastic are recommended to protect against the most destructive component of light.
* Caution, acrylic material can carry a static charge and must not be used with work done with pastels, charcoal, or other powdery or flaking medium (early photographers often used charcoal to hide error, enhance photographs).
* Framed work should have a protective layer of sturdy, lignin-free cardboard at the back of the frame for support, and the frame should be sealed to discourage the entry of air or insects.
* Un-framed works of art or photos must have individual protective enclosures. Matting or folders are acceptable, though again be sure of the quality of the materials.
* Protect the edges of the artwork or photograph, folders should be somewhat larger than their contents.
* Metal containers are preferred over wood to store negatives, photographs or art work, because wood gives off acidic gases.
* Avoid direct sunlight on your images as well as fluorescent and metal halogen lamps which give off UV.
* Temperature and relative humidity (RH) should not exceed 70deg F, and 60% humidity amounts, above this can encourage mold and insect activity, extreme low humidity can cause materials to become brittle.
* Make sure the place you store your works are as secure as possible against weather damage.

See: Storage and Care of Kodak Photographic Materials Rochester, N.Y.: Eastman Kodak, Kodak Pub. E-30 or many sources free on the Internet.

Finally, I might suggest multiple copies distributed among friends and family is a good practice for the assurance of maintaining your treasured family photo history.

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