Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Take Care of Those Pictures

As genealogists, we all understand the huge amount of photos that eventually come into our care.  We scour attics, basements, photo albums, all in an attempt to obtain more photos.

But what do you do with all of these precious photos once you have them?  Preserve them!  I have for you some general rules about preserving your photos, along with some suggestions on store these photos, and some great further reading.

The first general rule of preserving your pictures: Never, Ever, EVER do anything that cannot be undone.  That means (but is not limited to) no cutting or gluing.  If it can't be undone, then it is bad for your photos.

General rule number two: Acid-free, lignin-free, and PVC-free are your best friends.  Acid, that is often found in paper will damage the photos.  Lignin is a chemical that is often found in paper that makes the paper stronger - but over time, lignin breaks down and turns the paper brown and yellow, which will ruin your photos.  PVC is a chemical often found in plastic products, and if you put your precious pictures into a regular page protector, that PVC will damage your photos.

General rule number three:  Remember those magnetic photo albums?  (The photo albums with the sticky page that you put the photos on, and then you put the plastic over the page)  Magnetic photo albums are the enemy of your photos!

General rule number four: Where you store your photos is vital to whether they will last.  High humidity and temperature fluctuations are very damaging to your photos.  Lots of light is also very damaging to your photos, which is why you should never have your original on display.  Basements and attics are a no-no when it comes to your pictures because of the extreme humidity and temperature all of those gross pests!  Keeping your original photos on display is very damaging because of the sunlight. The best place for these photos is to be stored in an acid-free box under the bed or in the closet, where there won't be any extreme humidity and temperature changes. 

So, how in the world do you store photos without damaging or destroying them?

Make sure that everything your pictures comes into contact with is acid-free, lignin-free, and PVC-free.  So if you are going to put your pictures into a box, then make sure that box is acid-free and lignin free.  If you are going to put your pictures into plastic page protectors, then make sure those page protectors are PVC-free.  I also suggest that you place acid-free paper in between each picture, so that the pictures don't stick to each other.

For further information:
Over at, you'll find their free webinars.  They have a great webinar on Saving Your Family Treasures - and this is a great webinar full of great information.  It is a much watch/listen for anyone interested in preserving their family treasures.  You just need to register real quick (which just requires your email address) and then you'll be allowed in.

Where do I buy all of this stuff:
My genealogy store has everything you will need.  Everything from acid-free, lignin-free storage boxes, acid-free paper, even the camera that you need to take the pictures.  I am constantly adding more stuff to the store, so check back often for new things!