Caring for your photographs at home
Photographs are visuals memories of the past, but they are vulnerable to damage. Depending on the way we handle, store and display our photographs will have an impact on how long they last. Here are some commonsense rules on how to care for your photographs at home.
Poor handling is the main causes of photo damage – always handle photographs on the edges, as your fingerprints will leave permanent marks. If a photo is torn or creased avoid using sticky tape – this will eventually dry up and possibly leave a stain or fade the photograph. When handling very old black and white photographs wear cotton gloves, just to be sure.
Heat, light, water, pollution and insects can damage photographs.
Storing your photographs
Store your photographs in a clean, cool, dark and well-ventilated area that remains at a fairly constant temperature. Avoid storing in garages, on the floor, hot water cupboards and sheds.
The storage materials in direct contact with your photographs need to be of the best quality. There are conservation quality storage boxes and acid free envelopes available to purchase for your photographs. Using a photographic album can provide excellent protection, there are acid free albums and non-toxic albums readily available. It is recommended to no longer use the old photograph albums with the sticky cardboard and plastic covers, these can be very damaging to your photographs. Most of us have these albums in our homes – it is best to leave them now as removing the photographs may cause extra damage.
Store your negatives separately from your prints, and in individual sleeves for your precious negatives. Glass negatives should be stored upright in a sturdy box with each slide separated by a sleeve.
Displaying your photographs
It is best to have a digital copy of your image on display instead of the original. However if this is not an option do not display them in a sunny position this will fade the image, or above fireplaces as high temperatures and smoke can damage the photograph. Never pin up a photograph or use sticky tape or glue this will cause lasting damage. Never laminate a photograph – this is irreversible and over time the laminate will damage the photograph. You cannot get a good scan off a photograph once it has been laminated.
It is important to have information of the photograph - the names of people, places, dates etc. It is best not to write on the back of the photo but have a separate piece of paper with that information stored with it. If you do decide to write on the back use a soft pencil (2B) and print softly at one of the edges.
Framing a photograph
A frame not only improves the appearance of your photo but also protects it. If you choose a professional framer – ask them to do it to ‘conservation standards’. This will ensure they are using the best materials to conserve your image. And finally make sure the photographs are hung securely on your wall, where they cannot be bumped or knocked.
These are vulnerable to damage just like other photographs. It is impossible to say how long our digital images will last. But best practise is to back up your images regularly and have your images stored on your hard drive and on separate discs or drives. Digital images are so easy to produce but that means more photographs – try and keep good files of your images are have them named by topic, date, etc. Scanned images are great to give to friends but they will not last as long as the original – so always keep the original in a safe place.