I’ve met with a number of new clients lately (a great thing!) and I love that people are turning their attention to a lifetime of memories. When I evaluate a collection of photos – whatever form they are currently in – I look to see which ones are most in danger. While every photo isn’t important, you want to stop any deterioration as soon as possible.
One client said her slides were offsite in a storage facility. It makes sense when you think of how rarely you pull out the equipment to view family slides. However, those storage units are not usually climate controlled, and extreme heat and cold are damaging the slides year-round. I encouraged her to get the slides at her earliest opportunity so we can see what state they’re in and get them digitized.
Another client had a collection that spanned from archival boxes to sticky albums. I told her I didn’t want to leave her house unless I had all those sticky albums in my car. Even better, I said I would return with the photos but not the albums themselves as they were headed for the garbage. Most people have sticky albums with 1970s and 1980s pictures in them, but the chemicals that make them sticky are harmful to the photos, as is the plastic that seals the chemicals in. Even though the temporary box I’m using to hold the pictures isn’t acid-free, they’re much better off in that box than in the albums as we begin organizing that collection.
My most recent client talked about the family’s historical collection of memorabilia in an old family home. Items were stored all over including barn, attic and basement, which brings us back to the climate-controlled issue we had with the slides with the other client. Also, newspaper clippings and other paper documents are mixed in with photos which means the pictures are not in an acid-free environment. After digitizing the collection, we will make sure the photos are stored in containers with papers and boxes that are acid-free so they will not fade or discolor further.
In some ways, photos are a pretty hardy format over time. A 100-year-old photo can look almost as good today as it did when it was first taken. It is important to remember that pictures are really just processed paper, and will last much longer if handled and stored properly.