How to Store Old Photos

store old photos

What do you do with precious photos of family that you just can’t seem to find a place for around your home? Here is how to store old photos properly to protect them for generations to come.

Family photos represent decades of memories. It would be devastating to lose those memories to wear and tear from being shuffled around a home or improperly organized.

Even so, do you ever feel like you just don’t know what to do with old photographs? You can work some into your decor and tuck others away in albums for viewing on coffee tables. But what about the stashes of pictures you keep in shoe boxes and drawers? How can you store them to preserve them and the memories they hold?

Whether you need to create a space in your home for the safekeeping of family photos or must move them to a storage unit, there are several steps you can take to ensure they are protected. Remember that choosing the right materials and storage conditions are essential to protecting your precious photos.

Where to Store Family Photos for Safekeeping

The most important things when considering where to store photos are:

  • Ventilation – A well-ventilated area with circulating air combats mold growth and other damaging organic substances.
  • Temperature – Storage temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit can interfere with the chemicals used in the processing of photos, leading to discoloration. The cooler it is, the better when it comes to photo storage.
  • Moisture – It’s not just potential flood areas you have to worry about but humidity levels, too.
  • Lighting – Light can cause photographs to fade. If you aren’t able to enclose your prints completely, be sure that you are storing them in a dark place.

Best Places to Store Old Photos at Home

Storing your family keepsakes at home has the benefit of easy access.

Here are some do’s and don’ts of storing antique photos in your home:

DON’T: Store photos in a basement, attic, or garage where temperatures and humidity fluctuate with the change of seasons or reach extreme highs.

DO: Store photos in closets, cabinets, or under the bed. These locations, being part of your living quarters, will be climate controlled.

DON’T: Store photos near a heating or cooling vent.

DO: Store photos off the ground when possible.

Storing Old Photographs in a Self-Storage Unit

If you just can’t compromise the space in your home for vintage photographs that you’re unlikely to pull out on a regular basis, keeping them tucked away safely in storage can be a great option. It may require a trip to the unit when you want to access them, but you can reclaim the space in your linen closet or under the bed and sleep well at night knowing your photos are protected.

Here are some do’s and don’ts as far as placement of photos in your storage unit:

DO: Pick a climate-controlled unit. Remember: 75 degrees or cooler and low humidity are the best conditions for photo storage.

DON’T: Place old photos on the ground in a storage unit, even if they are packaged up in boxes or containers. Consider using a wire rack or pallet to keep boxes off the ground in case of flooding.

DO: Enclose all photographs completely, whether in boxes, containers, or frames.

Preparing Your Photos for Storage

Whether you choose to store at home or in your storage unit, you’ll want to organize your pictures in envelopes or boxes to preserve their condition.

An ideal container for storing printed pictures would have a sealed, water-resistant exterior, such as plastic, and soft but stiff dividers to separate prints on the inside. With that as a guideline, use your imagination! Maybe you choose to use envelopes or file folders as your dividers and a plastic tote or file box to contain them. These are likely items you’ll have on hand.

The go-to container for old photos shoe boxes are still a go-to for a reason: you are likely to have some around, and their stiff, square shape keep photos flat and protected. Just keep in mind that shoe boxes are not water-resistant. Consider using them for organizing your photos, but storing them in a water-resistant container or in a place where you know they will never come in contact with water.

The preservation experts at the National Archives recommend materials made of cotton or pure wood pulps to avoid contact with acids that can be hidden in other paper sources. They also suggest rolling larger, flexible prints into tubes, and using polyester film sleeves for extra precaution.

How to Organize Photos in Boxes or Envelopes

Unfortunately, if you really want to safeguard your photos, the process is going to involve more than simply piling them in photo safe boxes. Here are a few things to keep an eye on while you pack away photos:

  • Flat is the goal.
  • Use stiff, flat materials and containers to encourage your photos to stay flat.
  • Find the right fit.
  • Make sure the fit is right with your containers and your prints. Cramming pictures into a box that is too small in length or width is the easiest way to damage and dogear them before they’ve even made it to storage.
  • Fill boxes just enough.
  • Stuffing too many photos in one box can have the same effect as using a box that’s too small. On the flipside, leaving too much room in a box can cause items to shift in transport. If you have extra space, fill it with non-acidic tissue paper.
  • Non-acidic dividers are helpful.
  • Ever had to peel photos apart from another? Although it might feel meticulous, placing a sheet of paper or another type of divider between photos can save them in the long run, especially if your photos overheat or come in contact with water. The stiffer the better when it comes to dividers, to keep items flat and in place.

Tips for Preparing Photo Albums for Storage

store old photos
  • Use albums with acid-free sleeves, sheet protectors, or photo corners.
  • Look for materials like polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene.
  • Avoid adhesives.
  • Acids that can deteriorate the quality of printed photos hide in adhesives.
  • Flat and well-fitting applies here, too.
  • Make sure photographs have been inserted into sleeves or corner tabs that fit their size, and that they are positioned so that they will stay flat.
  • Don’t overstuff.
  • This tip is more for preserving the quality of the album itself, rather than the photos. If maintaining the quality of the album is important to you, overstuffing can cause damage to the spine of the album or cause pages to fall out.
  • Choose the album itself carefully.
  • Avoid textiles that might be appealing to moths and other cloth-eating pests. Leather is your best bet when it comes to albums that will last and store well.
  • Store albums within larger containers, free of chemicals.
  • Wrap your albums in tissue paper before placing them in boxes for an added level of protection.

Convert Print Photos to Digital for Extra Precaution

It never hurts to make copies of your photos, even after taking steps to preserve them in storage. Digital copies serve as your backups in case the originals are damaged or lost. Professional restorers can also use high-quality digital copies to restore your precious photos to their original beauty.

If your main concern when backing up old photos is to preserve the memories held in them, taking a picture with a digital camera, or even a smartphone, can be a surprisingly simple option. It’s easy, and the quality serves the purpose. If you have intentions of possibly reproducing a photo from a digital copy, you’ll want to consider using a scanner or have us do it for you.

Your digital copies can stay on a computer, but for added backup, it is recommended that you save them on a CD, memory stick, or external USB drive. Those items should also be stored safely in a water-free area of your home or storage unit!!

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How long will a USB Flash Drive retain its data when unplugged?

USB Flash Drive

Most manufacturers claim their flash drives will retain their contents for at least 10 years, but there are a number of variables that can shorten that time span.

If the flash drive was new when you copied the data onto it, it should be safe for at least most of those estimated 10 years.

If the drive was used however, I wouldn’t count it it lasting more than one-half to two-thirds of that time. Also, keeping the drive stored in a cool, dry location will help maximize the life of the data stored on it.

If your data is really important to you, I would back it up onto a second USB drive and give it to another family member or a trusted friend (who doesn’t live in the same house) for safekeeping. And after a few years you can transfer them to a new USB drive.

That way if one drive becomes lost, damaged or simply stops working you’ll have spares tucked away that you can use to retrieve those precious files.

Better yet, you could buy several thumb drives and hand them out to various trusted friends and relatives. After all, they are quite inexpensive these days.

A couple of other long-term storage options that I recommend are burning your data onto blank DVDs and/or uploading them to the cloud or one of the many free online storage services that are available these days.

When it comes to safely storing files that you simply cannot afford to lose, it’s wise to always do two things:

1 – Store at least one additional backup in another physical location.

2 – Keep multiple backup sets (in the form of USB drives, external hard drives, CD’s or online cloud storage services).

Source: Rick’s Daily Tips
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How do I know my old 8mm film is still good?

8mm and Super8 movie film, unless stored in very hot or moist conditions or in tightly sealed cans, is nearly always in good enough shape to do a film transfer. Although the plastic leader sometimes becomes brittle over time, in most cases the filmstock itself remains in good shape.

8mm film reels

There are a few things to look for if you have doubts. First, smell your film. If it has a very strong chemical odor, chances are it has damage of some sort. Check to see if the layers are stuck together. If not, check to see if the film has started to curl if you look at it edge-on. Finally bend the film and see if it is brittle. If your film is stuck together, badly curled or very brittle, we may not be able to transfer it. For film that is slightly curled or damaged which we may be able to transfer, you will probably see defects in the transfer including edges that are out of focus, skips and pauses in the film, framing issues, etc.

About the only other thing that can ruin your film is water. If the film is stored in wet conditions, or if it is submerged, the emulsion layer will run and your images will be turned into red and blue blobs. Again, there is not much we can do in this case.

The good news is that far less than 1% of all the film we see is damaged so badly we can’t do a transfer. We occasionally transfer film dating back to the early 1940’s, and occasionally from the 1930’s and even the late 1920’s, and it is generally in good condition.

Of course, there are small problems that affect the look of your 8mm or Super8 film, but won’t stop us from doing a transfer. These may include slight fading, debris that is part of the film image, burns from prior play, poor framing due to using a movie camera without a “through the lens” viewfinder, snagged or ripped sprocket holes, crystals that are part of the image, and many other little problems that annoy us, but you probably won’t notice or care about.

We digitize your 8mm & Super 8 Film Reels to DVD or MP4 files on USB thumb drive to be enjoyed for generations.

The process takes lots of time to capture your 8mm Home Movies frame-by-frame, creating thousands and thousands of individual images that are combined into a movie. This process results in 1080p clarity, detail, and colour from your old films.

For more information on our 8mm transfer service, see our Services page.
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