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Scholars Benefit From Carefully Preserved And Stored Photographs

Author : Alison Withers

Copyright (c) 2010 Alison Withers

Photographs have great sentimental value for families and individuals throughout their own lives and are an important and valuable record for scholars in many fields, not only for historians, of many aspects of life throughout the centuries.

But the older they are the more vulnerable to damage they become. Printed on paper and given a coating of chemicals they are sensitive to light, heat and even to touch.

Paper can become brittle and yellow if exposed to too much light. Handled too often photographs can become creased, torn or scratched and they are also vulnerable to the grease and oils from fingers, which can leave marks and attract dust and dirt.

Materials that can add to the damage include rusting staples or paper clips, adhesive from mounting materials and even the chemicals in some inks.

Inks, paper and photo surfaces all provide food sources for insects and other pests as well as good surfaces for moulds to grow on.

There are ways of preserving, protecting and storing them, however. Ideally, old photographs should be handled only at their edges, and preferably by hands protected by surgical or cotton gloves.

It is generally advised not to store photographic archives in either attics or basements, where they could be exposed to fluctuating temperatures and damp.

Photographic archive storage in a self-store facility can be an affordable and safe way for any organisation with a large and important photo archive to ensure they are preserved for future generations. These facilities offer a range of storage areas and have fairly stable humidity and temperatures.

Before putting photographs into archive storage there are a number of steps that can be taken to help make sure they do not deteriorate.

Step one is to dust them off with a soft cloth to get rid of any fingerprints or other marks. Another method is to brush them with a large, soft brush. Remove any glue, tape, staples, rubber bands and paper clips.

To prevent them from sticking together they should be separated with sheets of acid free tissue paper. If they are to be put into albums, the albums should be made of materials that are free from acid or lignin, both of which can stain and yellow prints. Ensure album pages have PVC-free page protectors as PVC can also damage prints over time. Use photo corners, not any form of adhesive, to fix pictures in place.

It is also possible to buy metal boxes or cardboard boxes labelled "acid free" for photo storage, but again, prints should be separated either by acid-free tissue paper or non-PVC storage sleeves.

Each photo should be clearly labelled on the reverse using a permanent marker, never a ballpoint pen, which can damage the surface.

It may also be a good idea to scan the photographs so that a digital version is saved onto a CD or online archive. This means that pictures can be accessed without risk of further damage to original prints, although there may still be occasions when examining the originals rather than the copies is necessary.

Once the photographs have been cleaned and protected as described they can be organised into archiving boxes or filing systems much like any other form of paper archive. Whatever container is chosen it is a good idea to make sure the outsides are clearly labelled with the contents and to compile a complete list of the whole archive.

Keeping a collection in a self-store unit is not only affordable, the security measures and insurance cover available in these facilities mean that there is less likelihood of any loss or damage to an irreplaceable collection.

Author's Resource Box

Photographs have an enduring appeal as well as being important documents of historical change. But they need careful preservation and archive storage where they wont be vulnerable to damage. Consumer writer Ali Withers investigates.

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Tags:   Self-storage in Ipswich, Self-storage in Suffolk, photographic archive storage

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Submitted : 2010-10-01    Word Count : 1    Times Viewed: 345