Photo albums are not simply another of the numerous possessions that families accumulate through the years. In fact, results of many surveys over the years consistently indicate that family photo albums would, in the vast majority of cases, be the one possession that most people would want to save if their home were subjected to fire or some other disaster. So, given the high intrinsic value of these family treasures, it only makes sense to provide your photos and albums with the greatest possible care.
Fortunately, preserving your photographs and photo filled albums is not too difficult and it starts with providing a safe environment. Generally, photos, like people, fare best in moderate temperatures and humidity. This would usually rule out storage in garages, attics, basements and other spaces that may lack a climate- controlled atmosphere. High temperatures, high humidity and exposure to sunlight can lead to the breakdown of the emulsion that makes up the photographic image.
Photos should be stored in albums or storage boxes that are free of any damaging substances, such as acids or lignin and certain types of plastics like latex and polyvinylchloride(PVC). Plastics are commonly found in albums that contain picture pockets. Most quality albums are now made with safe plastics but many older albums as well as some currently available products are made from PVC. This type of plastic is easily detected by its "shower curtain" smell and should be avoided. Latex is a substance that was common as the adhesive agent in the "magnetic page" that was once very popular. This led to the early breakdown of photos stored in such pages as anyone who has tried to remove a photo from this type of page has learned. Fortunately, a new generation adhesives have replaced latex in premium magnetic page albums and they are now regaining popularity as a versatile medium for storage.
Scrapbooks require more time to assemble into albums but are generally considered to be a better means of archiving because they allow the photos to breathe. There are some features to look for in scrapbooks that will assure the safety of your photos. First and foremost, the pages should be acid and lignin free. Acids and lignin (a polymeric substance) are found in many papers but, over time, can be damaging to photos. Therefore, quality papers that are manufactured to be used as scrapbook pages are processed in ways that produce a paper that is acid free (a pH level between 7 and 9) and lignin free. The same standards should be applied to any mounting corners, adhesives or inks used within the scrapbook. Additionally, if you plan to mount photos on both the front and back sides of the pages, you should use a scrapbook with interleaved pages so that the photos are not exposed to one another.
When an album has been completed it should be stored in an upright position such as books on a library shelf. Groups of albums can be stored in a designated area such as a wall unit in a family room or they may be stored in a dry closet if easy reference is not a priority. If stored in a closet, particularly if it is near an outside wall, they should be placed upright in a sealable plastic container to keep out dampness. Before storing any albums out of sight, however, consider the value of a beautifully prepared album as a designer touch. A dynamic album, displayed on a low table can add a personal touch as well as providing a lively topic of conversation.
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