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If you have a shoebox filled with black and white photos, stuffed (gently) in the back of the closet, don’t feel guilty. If they’re not in albums, it’s hard to know what to do with a collection of old family photos–shots of your grandfather in military uniform, your unsmiling great-great grandmother sitting on the front porch of the family home, your dad at sixteen posed excitedly in front of his first car.

Then there are those of us that collect other peoples’ family photos. I’m always intrigued by the boxes of black and white photographs at the antique store. How did they get there? Did no one care enough to keep them? Did the last of the family die and the photos were sold with the estate? I love a good mystery.

Whether they’re your family photos or someone else’s, here are a few good tips for preserving and displaying your collection.

-What’ll ruin a good photo:
1. Direct sunlight – it’s best to store your photos in a box or album safely out of reach of the sun’s rays.

2. Humidity. Ever seen a piece of paper posted on your fridge curl up around the edges? That’s humidity at work. Not only will humid air morph the paper your photos are printed on, it will also fade the colors (black and white are, after all, still colors).

3. Oil from your fingers, household dust and dirt. If you or other people are going to be handling your photos, wear gloves. It’s not hoity toity – it’s preservationist. And it will save your pics. The stuff on your hands will do damage to them over time. That’s why archivists wear those fancy white gloves when they get something old and important out to look at.

4. Ink. This goes for all photos new and old. Eventually, pen and marker (and even pencil), will seep through to the other side of the photo. If you need to label your photos, you can use one of those handy acid free pens that are all the rage with scrapbookers, yes, even on antique photos. Or, you can write below or label the photo after putting it in an album.

5. Paper clips, rubber bands, glue. Paper clips and rubber bands will cut into spots on your photos. Photos are best stored loosely, stacked horizontally (not piled on top of one another), with a sheet of acid-free paper in between each one.

Glue often contains acids that will seep through to the front of your photos. Plus, after it dries, glue tends to warp the thing it’s sticking to. If you have a kid who brings home projects made entirely of construction paper, you know the truth of this.

Side notes:
If you plan to display your photos around your home, I recommend having copies made. You can display the copies and keep the originals safely tucked away.

Now, if you bought some great pics at the antique store or flea market, you may not be as exact about keeping them out of harm’s way. Lots of people buy them for art and crafting purposes.

Ok, I’m no guru. This is just a brief summation of what I’ve learned over the years and what I’ve learned is mostly the basics. So, what did I miss??

p.s. I’d really be interested in hearing if anyone has rescued old photos from one of those papery antique albums.

Thanks for stopping by!