Protecting your photos and historical items is a lot like skin care. When you take care of your keepsakes they stay in great condition for decades. If, however, you neglect the proper storage and preservation methods, the results can be disastrous. Here are eight essential preservation facts that will help you keep your heirlooms in pristine condition for years to come:
Fact 1: Liquids destroy memorabilia, photographs, and negatives. To avoid disasters, store your scrapbook 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: Digital photos are stored on computers. Computers crash and hard-drives fail all the time. Make sure to back-up your digital photos and important files. You can use a service like Carbonite for a low, monthly fee. You can also purchase an external hard-drive, connect it to your computer, and back-up your digital photos regularly.
Fact 3: Sunlight will eventually diminish photo, negative, layout, and album quality. Keep all heirlooms out of direct sunlight.
Fact 4: Extreme temperatures damage photographs, negatives, layouts, page protectors, and albums. Store all historical items in moderate–temperatures and in locations where humidity is low.
Fact 5: 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, you can first, handle photos carefully, touching only the outer edges. Second, wash hands frequently or use acid neutralizing wipes. Third, follow the example of certain purists who wear lightweight cotton gloves insuring their photos remain pristine.
Fact 6: Handle and store your 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 7: 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), 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 a crylic or polyester (polyethylene and polypropylene) materials. They are 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 8: Paper and cardstock found in your local scrapbook store are not necessarily acid-free unless so stated on packaging or company display-signs that reference your particular item. In addition, be forewarned though a manufacturer’s white and pastel papers are free of acid that does not guarantee that their dark colors will be also. (Paper dies can affect the paper’s acidity level.) Your safest approach is to test any paper that is not specifically marked “acid-free.”