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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Care, Handling, and Storage of Photographs
References and Selected Further Reading:
Image Permanence Institute (IPI) Storage Guides: Storage Guide for Color Photographic Materials and IPI Guide to Preservation of Digitally-Printed Photographs, https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/imaging/storage-guides
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation, Care, Handling, and Storage of Photographs:
Northeast Document Conservation Center, Preservation Leaflets — 5. Photographs, https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/overview
Eaton, George T. Conservation of Photographs. Kodak Publication, no. F-40. Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak Co., 1985. Keefe, Laurence E., Jr. and Dennis Inch. The Life of a Photograph: Archival Processing, Matting, Framing and Storage. Boston: Focal Press, c1984.
The preservation procedures described here have been used by the Library of Congress in the care of its collections and are considered suitable by the Library as described; however, the Library will not be responsible for damage to your collection should damage result from the use of these procedures.
Regional Alliance for Preservation – A Nationwide Cooperative Providing Preservation Resources
RAP is a national network of nonprofit organizations with expertise in the field of conservation and preservation. Through coordinated outreach activities, educational programs, and publications, RAP organizations foster awareness about preserving our cultural heritage.
RAP members present training programs, provide conservation and preservation services, create publications to assist institutions in caring for their collections, and provide free technical advice to collecting institutions across the country.
SOCIAL MEDIA IMAGE PRESERVATION – BGSU University Libraries
Recommended by university library archivist as best source for preparing image libraries for institutions
LOC – Downloadable PDF file “Preserving your Digital Memories” 8 page manual
Preserving and conserving archived photographs
Library of Congress:
Recommended Formats Statement for Photography GREAT!
Australasia Preserves: Establishing a digital preservation community of practice
Our findings so far have enabled us to draft a business case in order to seek funding for the next two years of work, including implementing preservation storage, improving skills and training for digital preservation, and improving governance and management for long-term preservation
What kind of photograph album should I use / How should I store my photographs and/or negatives?
Polyethylene or polypropylene photo sleeves that fit into ring binders offer an easy solution, (“Care of Photographs,” Northeast Document Conservation Center) https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/5.-photographs/5.3-care-of-photographs.
If using an album with paper pages, secure photographs to the album page with photo corners. For other storage ideas and additional information, including how to store negatives and slides, see Care of Photographs, https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/5.-photographs/5.3-care-of-photographs, (Northeast Document Conservation Center).
Store the album in a preservation-quality box, https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.4-storage-enclosures-for-books-and-artifacts-on-paper, (“Storage Enclosures for Books,” Northeast Document Conservation Center) in good environmental conditions, https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/photo.html.
All products for storing photographs should pass the photographic activity test (PAT) (ISO 18916). https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.4-storage-enclosures-for-books-and-artifacts-on-paper
Read more about caring for family photographs from the U.S. National Archives. https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.4-storage-enclosures-for-books-and-artifacts-on-paper
What kind of pen should be used for marking/signing photographs?
Permanent ink pens that pass the photographic activity test (PAT) (ISO 18916) https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.4-storage-enclosures-for-books-and-artifacts-on-paper can be used on semi-gloss inkjet papers, films, and polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene photos sleeves and should not fade, bleed, or transfer when used properly. Such pens (Internet keyword search: “film marking pen preservation”) can be purchased from preservation suppliers. https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/4.-storage-and-handling/4.4-storage-enclosures-for-books-and-artifacts-on-paper
General Care and Handling of Photographs
The information on this page covers photographic prints from all eras of photography and photographic negatives, but not digital image files. http://www.digitalpreservation.gov/personalarchiving/
Taking care when handling any collection item is one of the more effective, cost-efficient, and easily achieved preservation measures.
Take proper care when handling photographic materials by:
- Having clean hands and wearing non-scratching, microfiber or nitrile gloves; having a clean work area
- Keeping food and drink away
- Not marking photographs, even on the back side
- Not using paper clips or other fasteners to mark or organize prints
- Not using rubber bands, self-adhesive tape, and/or glue on photographic materials
General Guidelines for the Proper Storage of Photographs and Negatives
Good storage is arguably the most important preservation measure for photographic prints and negatives:
- A relatively dry* (30-40% relative humidity), cool** (room temperature or below), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)
- Minimal exposure to all kinds of light; no exposure to direct or intense light; use duplicate slides in light projectors
- Distance from radiators and vents
- Minimal exposure to industrial (particularly sulfur-containing) atmospheric pollutants
- Protective enclosures within a box***
* Relative humidity is the single most important factor in preserving most photographic prints.
** For contemporary color photographs and for film negatives, however, temperature is the controlling factor affecting stability. Storage at low temperatures (40°F or below) is recommended. Appropriate enclosures for cold storage are available from various vendors.
*** Suitable protective enclosures for photographic prints and negatives are made of plastic or paper that meet certain specifications:
- Paper enclosures must be acid-free, lignin-free, and are available in both alkaline buffered (pH 8.5) and unbuffered (neutral, pH 7) stock. Storage materials must pass the ANSI Photographic Activity Test (PAT) which is noted in supplier’s catalogs. Buffered paper enclosures are recommended for brittle prints that have been mounted onto poor quality secondary supports and for deteriorated film-base negatives. Buffered enclosures are not recommended for contemporary color materials. Paper enclosures minimize unnecessary light exposure; are porous; easy to label with pencil; and are relatively inexpensive.
- Suitable plastic enclosures are made of uncoated polyester film, uncoated cellulose triacetate, polyethylene, and polypropylene. Note: Photographic emulsions may stick to the slick plastic surfaces of these storage materials at high relative humidity (RH). Plastic enclosures must not be used for glass plate, nitrate, or acetate-based negatives.
Prints of historic value should be matted with acid-free rag or museum board for protection. Adhesives should not touch the print. Matting should be done by an experienced framer or under the direction of a conservator.
Store all prints and negatives (whether matted or in paper or plastic enclosures) in acid-free boxes. If possible, keep negatives separate from print materials. Store color transparencies/slides in acid-free cardstock boxes or metal boxes with a baked-on enamel finish or in polypropylene slide pages. For more information about storage of negatives, see Motion Picture Film, https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/film.html.
Protect cased photographs (e.g., daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) in acid-free paper envelopes and store flat; keep loose tintypes in polyester sleeves, or, if flaking is present, in paper enclosures.
Storage of family photographs in albums is often desirable and many commercially available albums use archival-quality materials. Avoid albums with colored pages and “magnetic” or “no stick” albums.
Dealing with Condition Problems
For condition problems that are insufficiently addressed by the measures outlined above, conservation treatment by a photograph conservator may be necessary.
The national professional association for conservators, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), http://www.conservation-us.org, maintains an online directory for finding a conservator by specialty and geographic location and provides information on how to choose a conservator. In addition, AIC also offers guidelines for the care of collections beyond library materials.