What Is Photo Safe Storage?

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Photo safe storage is a method of storing and preserving printed photographs so they will remain in prime condition. Temperature in the storage area should be 65 to 70 degrees F, with moderate humidity. Storage media should be made of materials that will not contribute to deterioration.

Location

  • Where printed photographs are stored is of utmost importance. Basements, for example, are not prime locations as these areas are often humid and experience wide temperature swings. First floor closets are good choices because they are cool and dark and maintain even humidity.

Materials

  • The National Archives recommends storing photographs in plastic and paper materials that pass the ANSI IT9.16 Photographic Activity Test (PAT). This test was developed the by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to determine whether a material will cause fading or staining. Storage materials should also meet standards described in ANSI IT9.2 Photographic Processed Films, Plates, and Papers---filing Enclosures and Storage Containers.

Paper

  • Two types of paper storage are available---boxes and envelopes. It is important to remember, however, not to store photographs in manila envelopes as these do not meet ANSI standards.
    Photo boxes are one valid way to store prints. Look for boxes that will fit the size of prints, such as 3.5 by 5 inches or 4 by 6 inches. Photo boxes are generally made of paper. Look for boxes specially called archival or acid-free that have tight fitting lids. These types of boxes protect photos from light, pollution and similarly harmful conditions. In addition, they neutralize acid that may come into contact with the prints.

Envelopes

  • Acid-free papers, which include envelopes in addition to boxes, should have a rating of 7 or high on the pH scale. Paper storage materials should also be lignin-free. Avoid envelopes with center seams, as the adhesive can cause fading or staining in photographs. For envelopes with center seams, place the photo side away from the seam to avoid problems.

Plastic Enclosures

  • Plastic sleeves are another popular method of storing photographs, but be careful in what you choose. These should be made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene and Mylar D or Mellinex 516. All of these are stable and do not have strong odors. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics as these can generate acids which can damage photographs. Additionally, this type of plastic can actually stick to photographic surfaces which will ruin prints.

Albums

  • Organizing photographs in an orderly manner is also important and one of the easiest ways to do this is to place them in an album. Remember, however, that albums should be made of archival or acid-free materials to prevent photographs from deteriorating.

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  • Photo Credit Travel image by vashistha pathak from Fotolia.com
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