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Preserving Family Photos and Memorabilia: Home

Some tips and links to preserving your family's history while at home

Print Photographs

All photographs are sensitive to light; the older the photograph, the more sensitive it will be. If you have older photographs displayed in frames around your home, you may notice the photos have increasing amounts of discoloration or fading. So, how do you remedy this?

  1. Remove the original photograph from the frame
  2. Make copies of the photograph via a high-quality digital camera or a flatbed scanner 

a.     If using a scanner, 300ppi should be the minimum resolution setting used to scan the photograph

b.     Save the master file as a TIFF or TIF file [TIFF files are significantly larger than their JPEG counterparts, and can be either uncompressed or compressed using lossless compression. Unlike JPEG, TIFF files can have a bit depth of either 16-bits per channel or 8-bits per channel]

c.      Smaller JPEG versions can always be created from the TIFF to be shared on social media, via email, etc.

d.     File naming: Use only the letters of the alphabet (A-Z, a-z) when creating alpha-numeric identifications. Don't use spaces, punctuation or symbols. Use hyphens and underscores instead of spaces

e.     Consider adding basic Metadata to files: Who, What, Where, and When. Metadata helps find and identify files later in time

f.      Back up your files: Follow the 3-2-1 Rule. Three copies, stored on two different media, and one copy located off-site, maybe with another family member

Original Photographs in Original Frames

If your original photograph is in an original frame that you don’t want to take apart and you want to continue to display the original, then try to take some precautions to protect the image by:

  1.        Placing the photograph in a spot that will not be exposed to direct sunlight, UV or fluorescent light
  2.        Choosing a location that is temperature and humidity controlled. You do not want to expose the photo to high temperatures. Keep the temperature below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature, the longer your items will last, because cooler temperatures slow the rate of chemical decay
  3.        Try to keep the relative humidity level stable, within the range of 15-65%. Above 65% will increase mold growth; below 15% can cause brittleness

Best Storage Conditions

Store old photographs at constant temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

  1. Keep the humidity levels in photo storage areas between 15% and 65%
  2. Avoid storing old photographs in attics, basements, or garages where temperature and humidity tend to fluctuate. This can lead to mold, chemical decay, or brittleness
  3. Keep old photographs away from areas that are prone to insects and rodents. These “critters” like to use paper to nest and may chew holes in your prized photos
  4. Store old photographs up on shelves and away from areas that are prone to leaks to avoid water damage

Use containers that:

  1. Are big enough for the originals to lay flat or upright without folding or bending 
  2. Are made of board or folder stock that is lignin-free and acid-free or buffered
  3. Are the right sizes, so items don’t shift
    1. Use a spacer board if there are not enough items to fill an upright box
    2. Don’t overstuff the box

Photo storage boxes:

Storage Sleeves

If your originals are brittle, torn, or heavily used, place each sheet in a polyester L-sleeve ( These sleeves reduce the risk of tears and other damage when handling.

  1. Only place one item in a sleeve and make sure all parts of the text or image is visible. This way the item can stay in the sleeve while being viewed
  2. Use sleeves that are larger than the original. Any part of the original extending outside of the sleeve is likely to be damaged
  3. Don’t use sleeves in books. The sharp edges of the polyester will tear the book page

Equipment & Supplies

Epson Perfection V19 Scanner

The removable lid accommodates bulky photo albums. Software for restoring color to faded photos and removing dust is included.

Epson Perfection v600 Photo Scanner

Scan all your prints, negatives and slides quickly and efficiently. Complete with film holders it handles just about any size and format, including 35 mm filmstrips, mounted slides and full panoramic medium format film.

Photo Storage Boxes

Archival quality storage boxes come in a variety of sizes and are made of materials that won't harm your photos.

Storage Sleeves

Storage sleeves can be useful for protecting brittle or damaged photographs.