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Tips to preserve old photographs and family heirlooms

Protecting and preserving precious photographs and family heirlooms means they can be passed on for the next generation to enjoy.

One of the simplest ways to look back and celebrate your life is by remembering through photographs, videos and other special mementos.

Whether you have some old photographs that need to be carefully protected or other heirlooms you want to hang on to, here’s some tips for preserving and enjoying your most cherished possessions.

Go digital

If you have old photographs or home videos that you want to preserve for years to come, making a digital copy is a great way to make it accessible to others. You can upload photographs to your computer using a home scanner.

This is also useful for delicate documents like birth certificates and marriage records – particularly if you’re holding on to records that are already five centuries old.

You may have slides or home movies in a format that makes them difficult to watch. There are many professional services that can carefully convert slides and film into formats like VHS and DVD. Contact your local photography shop or look for specialists like Snappy Snaps who can handle the process.

Consider the display

Many of us love to put old photographs and other heirlooms like quilts or paintings on display at home. This is a great way to enjoy your precious belongings, but not always a great way to protect them. Environmental factors like moisture, dust and sunlight can cause irreparable damage to already delicate items.

Consider how you’re displaying items and where the best place to put them in your home is. Keep photographs and quilts away from direct sunlight and bright light by hanging them in rooms that don’t have windows. For example, a hallway or bathroom might be a good place to put a display of your oldest photographs – and also a convenient place where people can spend a moment looking them over.

Get archive folders

Archive folders, acid-free flap envelopes and archival polyethylene bags can all keep your possessions safe when they aren’t out on display. This will help keep dust and moisture away from vulnerable items and, particularly in the case of fabrics, can also help prevent it being eaten by moths when you think it’s safely being stored.

For your oldest items, consider using cotton gloves. This might feel like an extreme measure, but the oils on your fingertips can cause delicate materials to breakdown faster. Gloves will ensure you can look through old books, photographs and documents without damaging them.

Avoid the attic

For many of us, the attic is an obvious storage place because items can be safely stored for years at a time. Like a basement, the attic is prone to larger fluctuations in temperature and humidity than the rest of the home, which can both damage your delicate items over time. The best place for heirlooms is in a closet or shelf in your main living space on the first or second floor.

Do you have any tips to preserve photographs and heirlooms? Share your experience in the comments below.

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Silversurfer's Assistant Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Assitant Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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