Preserving old photos
Many of us have a box or album of old photographs somewhere around the home – photos from grandparents and great grandparents that have been saved and passed on through the family.
Taking the time to protect these precious photographs from wear and deterioration can help guard them for future generations.
Very old photographs are particularly prone to damage, and without realising, careless handling can damage photos even further.
Today we’re sharing a few helpful tips of what to do and what not to do to keep your oldest family photos safe and looking good for years to come.
Watch fingerprints – The oil and perspiration on our fingers can cause major damage to the emulsion of an old photograph. Handling photos with a pair of white archival gloves is the simplest way to protect photos if you need to sort through a box or album.
Avoid self-adhesive albums – The albums we choose to store our photographs in might actually be doing more harm than good. Self-adhesive albums and adhesive tapes, rubber bands, paper clips and backing boards can all cause real damage to photographs. You may even find over time it’s impossible to remove photos from a self-adhesive album without tearing.
Store in a cool, dry place – We’ve all heard this one before, and it’s especially true for photographs. High temperatures and moist air are ideal growing conditions for mould and mildew, which can break down the top layers of a photograph. Insects and rodents also find paper a potential food source, so store your albums somewhere safe, and avoid putting them in an attic or basement if possible.
Skip the ink – Labelling photographs is an obvious way to keep track of when the photos were taken and who appears in them, but ink – even on the back of the photo – can eventually become troublesome down the line. If you do need to write on a photo, use a pencil with a light hand instead.
Don’t clean – Water, solvent cleaners, erasers and tape will cause more harm than good, so resist the temptation to try and tidy up any damaged or dirty photographs, as you may end up degrading the picture further.
Choose folders or pockets – By keeping photos and negatives in a folder or pocket you can shield them from the damaging effects of dust and light. Look for chemically stable paper recommended specifically for photos – they won’t have and sulphur, acids or peroxides in them.
Keep albums intact – If you have old photos that have been lying in the same album for years, it’s best to leave them alone. You can protect the entire album by placing it inside a conservation board box instead.
Reduce light exposure – If you want to put your old photos on display, choose an area in the home that doesn’t receive direct sunlight. Sun can fade photos – particularly old, black and white photos – very quickly.
Make a digital copy – One of the simplest ways to protect and old photograph and still enjoy it is by making a digital copy. Carefully using a scanner to scan a copy into your computer means you can print a newer version to frame and use instead. There are dozens of services that will do this process for you if you need a hand, and many will even help restore an old, cracked or damaged photo through the wonders of photo editing once a copy of the photo has been scanned onto a computer.
How do you look after your old photos? Let us know in the comments below!
Silversurfer's Assistant Editor
Latest posts by Silversurfer's Assistant Editor (see all)
- Does the Sandwich Generation need more support? - September 22, 2017
- Staying active lowers the risk of cognitive decline - September 21, 2017
- Clever uses for salt - September 20, 2017
- Is “old” an age or an attitude? - September 19, 2017
- Spicy Brazilian Prawns - September 18, 2017
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!