A picture is worth a thousand words, but only if you look after it.
The family photos and documents you archive will eventually become treasured items, so here is our list of the top seven tips to keep your photos in peak condition.
1. Avoid sunlight
Direct sunlight is the enemy of photos. (And vampires!)
Be careful where you hang and display your photographs. The longer they are exposed to the sun, the quicker they will fade.
Try regularly switching the photos around your home.
Not only will you help your photos last longer, but rotating the pictures allows you to see each picture afresh in a new location.
2. Don’t store them in your basement or your attic
It might be tempting to store your family documents and mementoes in the basement or the attic, but these rooms are also the most exposed to the weather and changes in temperature.
Heat from the attic or moisture from the basement can quickly ruin paper and photos.
Instead, find a cool, dark place in one of the internal rooms of your house where the temperature is better regulated.
3. Don’t use adhesives
Glue, rubber cement, tape or gum can all stain and mark photographs. Your best options for mounting and storing are albums with paper or plastic envelopes.
Plastic sleeves allow your family to look at the photos, while keeping them protected.
Paper envelopes are also great for archiving documents and mementoes. Just watch out for the adhesive gum on envelopes with a seal.
4. Mount your photos with a matte
If you’re displaying your photos in a frame, the biggest mistake people make is to have the photo touching the glass.
In time, the photo can stick to the glass, which means if you ever need to change the frame, half of the image will remain on the glass while the rest peels off in your hand.
Instead: use a cardboard matte.
You can keep the distance between the surface of the photograph and the glass. Plus the extra border can make your pictures more artistic and professional.
5. Don’t write on the photos in ink
It might seem obvious, but writing on a photo in ink is a really destructive way to label a picture.
The ink will damage the photo over time, plus the labelling is irreversible and overlaps with the image.
The best way to label a photograph is to write on the back with a soft 2B pencil in the margins. Just remember to keep a light touch. Pushing too hard will mark the photo and score through to the other side.
6. Don’t try to repair old photos with tape
This goes back to our previous recommendation: Don’t use adhesives anywhere near the photographs you wish to archive.
If a photo is torn, just leave it the way it is and store it in a paper or clear plastic envelope.
Careful mounting will let you view the photo, without causing further damage.
7. Wash your hands
There is a reason museum curators use soft, white gloves when handling the exhibits. Oils from your skin can damage paper and photography.
Peanut butter and photos do not mix.
Pick up the photos by the edges and handle them as little as you can.
If you’re sharing the photos around at a social occasion with small children, take the opportunity to teach the young ones how to do the same.
In an upcoming post, we’ll talk about the best ways to preserve your family memories by scanning your photos digitally.
Until then – what tips do you have for looking after old photos? Let us know by leaving a comment.