Protect Family Photos

Save your family's visual history with proper storage and framing techniques.
Leigh Anne Montgomery

It pains a writer to admit this, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Sadly, though, a photograph isn't worth much if it fades and decays over time.

Framing Facts
Low prices may tempt you to buy decorative frames for your photos, but be careful. Most of them don't come with archival mats or spacers to keep photos from touching the glass. Use UV-blocking glass to protect photos, and do not hang them in direct sunlight. Wood can give off harmful chemicals, so use aluminum or archival plastic frames. If you have heirloom photos, make a good copy of the original, frame it, and hang on the wall. Store the original in a safe place.

Healthy Attachments

  • Opt for archival-quality photo corners. Never use glues or tapes unless they are designated to be photo-safe.
  • Don't rush when removing old photos from self-stick albums. You may do more harm than good. If the adhesive has dried up and the plastic cover sheet has come loose, you can probably remove the photos easily. If necessary, use a thin knife inserted under the edge of the photo to remove it. Be careful not to curl the photo as you pull it off.
  • If the pages are tacky and removing the photo will cause damage, consider taking the album to a photo conservation expert. Ask for references at your local photo shop.


Digital Preservation

There are services that will scan your prints and convert them into JPEG files. For $49.95, www.shoeboxreprints.com will scan up to 1,000 photos. Your original prints are returned to you along with a CD-ROM/DVD.

Smart Storage

  • Store images in separate polyethylene bags. Be sure the product is archival quality with no polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC releases poisonous chemicals throughout its life cycle. For more about archival products, visit www.lightimpressionsdirect.com.
  • Choose boxes and photo albums that are acid-free and made from archival board. Do not use magnetic or self-adhesive albums. Kolo offers a variety of archival storage products. Visit www.kolo.com.