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How Do I Preserve Photos?

Old photos may be preserved by storing them in specially made albums or boxes.
Graphite pencils may be used to label the backs of photos.
Old photographs should be held at the edges to prevent smudges on the surface.
Albums allow photos to be stored safely and are easy to flip through.
Photos should not just be thrown into a cardboard box.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 July 2014
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You can preserve photos by storing them in albums and boxes made especially for photographs. All photos should be properly labeled so that future generations can easily identify the people and places in the pictures. Using a dark, soft graphite pencil gently on the backs of photos is a good method of labeling them. Remember to be specific with names, dates and locations — "The family at Grandpa's farm, 2012" won't be as easily identified by future generations as "Doug, Leslie, Vanessa and Jason Jones at Grandpa Steve Smith's farm, Pumpkin Valley, Utah, July 2012." Keeping photographs away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures is especially important when you're concerned about how to preserve your photos.

Just throwing bunches of pictures into a drawer or cardboard box isn't a good way to preserve photos by any means. Photographs stored this way are prone to smudges and fingerprints when viewed. If this happens, it may be possible to remove marks on photos with a little rubbing alcohol on a soft, clean cloth. Test this method in the corner of the photograph first to prevent damaging the picture further.

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Changes in humidity may cause the edges of a photo to roll up. Attics are poor places to store photographs as they tend to be hot and humid. Basements may be too damp. A dry area with a steady temperature is the best place in your home for preserving photos. A fireproof, waterproof photo storage box may be an option to help protect your most treasured photographs in case of a fire or flood.

When hanging a photograph on a wall such as a family portrait, it must be kept out of direct sunlight or fading is likely. It's best to preserve important photos in a proper photo album or storage box made specifically for photographs and then hang copies on a wall instead of originals. Light can fade photos at a fast rate and this is most noticeable in color photographs rather than black and white pictures. Laminating photographs isn't an ideal method to preserve photos, as the clear protective finish tends to turn yellow over time.

For the best results when you preserve photos, look for archival-quality preserving boxes and photo albums. Binder style archival photo albums are convenient because the clear covers allow the photos to be easily seen while preventing smudges and fingerprints. Plus, the pages can be removed and arranged to create an organized look to the album. Scrapbooking is a popular answer to the question of how to preserve photos in a protective, yet attractive way. Acid-free papers in a wide range of shapes and patterns can add interesting, creative style to photo album pages while also helping to preserve them.

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Discuss this Article

umbra21
Post 3

@Mor - AS long as people don't rely entirely on cloud storage for that kind of archive. I worry sometimes about the fact that most of my favorite photos are only digital and I haven't gotten around to printing them out. It might be more difficult to preserve photographs when they are printed, but at least it's a physical item rather than just a digital record.

Mor
Post 2

@pleonasm - You might want to scan them all in and put them up in a photo sharing website, so that you've got a more permanent archive. Photographs on paper can easily be lost to fire, or mold or flooding. And if you put them on an internet site you can give your other relatives the password and they can all go and see the photographs as well.

No matter how well you take care of a photo, it's not going to last forever, and I don't think it's worth trying to preserve lots of them like that when you can just scan them into cloud storage instead.

pleonasm
Post 1

I really have to get my act together and go through all our old photos with my mother. We have a lot of interesting photos from the family that come from my grandmother, but I have no idea who half the people in them are and how they are related to me.

Even the ones that have names on the backs aren't necessarily going to help, because sometimes they are so old that I don't know who the people are by name either.

I'd love to keep them as a family record, but if the memories of who they are and what they mean are lost, then they might as well be random photos in a magazine of strangers.

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