protecting photos and historical items is like knowing the proper methods of skincare: when applied correctly, the results are long-term and beautiful. handled carefully, your memorabilia can look its best even after years of display. knowing the right heirloom care can greatly influence where and how you spend your project-making time, money, and effort. here are a few preservation facts that can aid in heirloom longevity:
fact 1: liquids destroy memorabilia, photographs, and negatives. to avoid disasters, store your creative artwork heirloom supplies, albums, photographs, and negatives in a dry, cool place where water from broken pipes or overflowing toilets cannot reach them. keep all drinks off your work area.
fact 2: sunlight will eventually diminish photo, negative, layout, and album quality. keep all heirlooms out of direct sunlight.
fact 3: extreme temperatures damage photographs, negatives, layouts, page protectors, and albums. store all historical items in moderatetemperatures and in locations where humidity is low.
fact 4: although not immediately apparent, fingerprints on photographs, negatives, and layouts become visible over time. oil from skin is the culprit. to prevent this type of deterioration, be sure tohandle photos carefully, touching only the outer edges. also, wash hands frequently or use acid neutralizing wipes by undu. you can also be extra careful (and fancy!) by wearing lightweight cotton gloves to ensure your photos/paper/heirlooms remain pristine.
fact 5: handle and store your paper, photos, negatives, and layouts carefully. improper storage increases the risk of scratches, tears, and bends. store and seal your photos and negatives in a sturdy container, in plastic sleeves that fit into a three-ring binder, or in acid-free envelopes that have been labeled and filed. layout storage should be doubly protected: first in sheet or page protectors, then in appropriate albums.
fact 6: not all plastics are alike. in fact, some sheet protectors, binders, photo enclosures, and photo corners will eventually damage your memorabilia more than if you had not used plastic protection or enhancement at all. the destructive material is polyvinyl chloride (pvc) or more commonly known as “vinyl.” because pvc is an unstable plastic, it releases a hydrogen-chloride gas that spreads to your memorabilia, corroding your photos and historical items over time. to avoid this harmful process, do not buy materials containing pvc or its cousin polyvinyl acetate (pva). instead, look for acrylic or polyester (polyethylene and polypropylene) materials. they are 18-chemically stable and will ensure encapsulation safety for your memorabilia. if you are uncertain of a product’s composition, you can easily identify pvc by its strong plastic odor.
fact 7: high levels of acid in ink, regular paper, newspaper, and other memorabilia amplify the acid level already present in your photographs through a process called acid migration. contact between scrapbooking items can cause chemical reactions, which affect the longevity and color of your photos. to deter this reaction from affecting your photos, keep a buffer of acid-free paper next to or behind your photos. deacidification sprays such as “archiver’s mist” are available at most craft and scrapbook stores. these sprays can neutralize acid in newspaper clippings and other historical items.
fact 8: photographs are put at risk when a ballpoint pen is used to document the names and dates on their backs. because sufficient pressure must be applied when using a ballpoint pen, you may see impression marks on the front side of your photo. in addition, ballpoint ink transfers. if the photo is placed on top of a photo stack, ink blotting of other photos may occur. to avoid these problems, use omnichrom photosafe pencils.
fact 9: photos without documented names and dates will one day become a burden or may even be discarded. i love looking at old photos of people i don’t know when i come across them at flea markets and the like, but i always feel really sad at the same time. who were these people? didn’t someone care enough to hand these photos down in their family? bottom line with family photos: don’t procrastinate. document them as soon as they are developed. if you have unmarked photos from years past, take some time to put them in order with the proper names and dates. if you find you are having difficulty remembering information, make a simple “year at a glance” history of your family. include in it the age of each person, significant events, births, and deaths. then as you organize your photos, you will have a point of reference to add to or start from. as you do this you can document history which benefits you now and your family for years to come.
fact 10: polaroid photos should never be cropped (trimmed). these contain a necessary protective seal that allows your photo image to remain vivid over time. when this seal is broken, air enters behind the photograph nullifying the effects of the chemical process and causing your image eventually to disappear. if you have already trimmed your polaroid photos and still have a visible image, color-copy or scan them immediately. and no, scotch tape around the edges won’t help matters.
fact 11: professional portraits may not be replaceable. if stored in acid-rich boxes, hung in picture frames with acidic mats, or exposed to significant sunlight, your portraits could be irreparably damaged. professional photographers hold onto portrait negatives for a limited time (rarely more than 3 to 4 years, possibly less.) copy shops will color-copy portraits only if the pictures lack copyright notices or written permission has been given by the portrait photographer. in order to safeguard your photograph keepsakes, you can add the original portraits to layouts using acid-free materials. don’t crop them—use photo corners to secure them into place, and store them in acid-free page protectors in photo albums. alternatively, if you don’t want to place them in albums, store them in acid-free, size-appropriate, protective containers. it is also a good idea to scan and save all portraits to your computer. for large portraits, you can scan and stitch them together using a stitching program.
fact 12: for long-term album storage, never lay albums flat on a surface and stack them. doing so will damage the album bindings, as well as place harmful pressure on photos and embellishments. keep it vertical, baby.
fact 13: magnetic photo albums (albums that have sticky-pages covered in clear acetate) have an acidic adhesive that will severely damage or destroy your photos. if the adhesive imbeds itself into the backing of photos ,they can be difficult or impossible to safely remove from the page. if you have any photographs in this type of photo album, remove them as soon as possible. your posterity will be grateful for the salvaged memories.
help for the stuck
tip: if your photographs seem permanently stuck on your page, carefully work a tightened strand of dental floss between the photo and the page or slightly heat your pictures with a blow dryer. if your photos are still immovable, color copy or scan the entire page and use the replicas for your artwork purposes. store the original album in a safe place where it is dark, cool, and dry.
summing it up
an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure. giving proper attention and care to your heirloom-quality masterpieces, historic photos and memorabilia will save you time, money and energy in the long run.
a final note
paper and cardstock found in your local scrapbook store are not necessarily acid-free unless stated as such on the packaging or the company display signs that reference your particular item. in addition, be forewarned that though a manufacturer’s white and pastel papers are free of acid, that does not guarantee that their dark colors are too. (paper dies can affect the paper’s acidity level.) your safest approach is to test any paper that is not specifically marked “acid-free.” more on that tomorrow.