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Photograph Preservation

Care, Handling and Preservation of Photographs

  1. Identification: Proper identification of the photograph’s materials  (image material, coatings, etc.) and its production process is essential for appropriate storage and handling recommendations.

  2. Care & Handling: Handle with clean hands or wear clean gloves. Try to avoid touching the image area of the photo; handle by its edges. Limit markings on the photo, write on the back or near the edge with a graphite pencil. Don’t use paper clips, rubber bands to mark or organize your photos. Avoid tape, sticky notes, etc. Soft brushes can scratch or damage photographs; use a blower to remove dust or debris. 

  3. Storage:  This is the most important preservation measure for preserving photographs. Store in a relatively dry, cool, stable environment – 68 degrees F or less. Do not store in attics, basements, close to fireplaces, vents, radiators. Limit light exposure on your photos. 

  4. Housing:  Photos should be stored within protective enclosures such as folders or sleeves, to protect from dust and light. Paper enclosures should be photo-safe and free of colorants that bleed. Plastic enclosures should be of uncoated polyester, polyethylene or polypropylene. Do not use plastic enclosures for nitrate or acetate-based negatives. You can mat prints with acid-free museum board to protect prints. Do not use adhesive directly on the print. Store all photos in photo-safe boxes. Keep negatives separate from print materials. Store family photographs in photo-safe albums.


Further Reading:

  1. Library of Congress, Preservation: Care, Handling and Storage of Photographs

  2. American Library Association:  Preserving Photographs

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