Preserving your Antique Photos
Preserve your family’s heirloom images with SophterLight Photo Restoration and archiving.
Your photographs have survived many years, but images are delicate, and vulnerable; with the passing of time, improper storage or display could compromise or even destroy your collection.
Protect your treasured heirloom images so they may be enjoyed for generations to come.
What presents the greatest threat to your vintage photographs?
Fluctuations in temperature, either too high or too low, can cause chemical changes that degrade the quality of photographic images. Discoloration, Fading, brittleness, wrinkling, cracking, and staining can result.
Relative humidity, either too high or not high enough, breaks down image integrity. When combined with temperature extremes, moisture can destroy a photo very quickly. Paper will deteriorate, mounted images can separate from card stock, spotting and staining will occur, and emulsions will bubble, peel and crack. Fungi may gain a foothold leading to staining and spotting of the surface.
Ultraviolet radiation, or UV light, will compromise (lighten or darken) your images, create brittle paper, and cause fading. Sunlight and fluorescent lights will compromise your collection if not properly displayed.
Oil from fingers, and dusty, polluted, or dirty conditions, can soil a photograph beyond recognition by creating destructive acids and oxidation. This results in stains, smudges, and detail-obscuring discoloration. Cigarette, wood fire smoke, smog, dust, and household product fumes such as paints and cleaners- all adversely affect antique images!
Now you know what to avoid! What can you DO to protect your photo collection?
Do not store photos in attics or basements! Also avoid outer walls, air conditioning and heating systems, fireplaces and woodstoves, areas near windows, as well as rooms that receive excessive sun. Try to keep your photo storage area in the 65-68 degree Fahrenheit range.
Relative humidity should remain between 45 and 55 percent. Keep your photo collection away from rooms such as humid kitchens and bathrooms, areas with water pipes, and outer walls that can become damp. And again, never keep photos in an attic or basement, or a storage facility that does not regulate moisture and temperature.
Keep your photos in shaded rooms and use lower wattage bulbs. If you frame an image, ask the framer for UV filtering glass or acrylic, and ph balanced mats, backboards, and paper to reduce exposure to damaging acids. Hang on walls that do not receive sun and are not lit by fluorescent lighting or have skylight exposure.
Your photo collection should be in clean rooms, and handled as little as possible. Pollution such as smoky air and smog should also be avoided. Use ph balanced storage boxes and acid-free, chemically stable plastic sleeves to store photos. Keep up and away from floors in case of flooding.
Remember weather cards? These humidity indicator cards can alert you to sudden changes in moisture.
Ambrotypes and daguerreotypes should be wrapped in buffered tissue paper and also stored in ph balanced, acid free storage boxes. NOTE: Daguerreotypes should be cleaned by a professional restorer. Never remove a dag from its case or attempt to clean yourself, or the image will be lost forever.
Handle unprotected images with cotton or latex gloves.
As a final note, it is a wise idea to scan your images as well as make reprints. A disaster could wipe out your collection, but if you maintain copies in a safe place, and post images online as well as share copies with relatives and friends, then all will not be lost!
Know what will compromise your antique photograph collection, and follow these tips for preservation and safe storage. Protect your investment, and be sure that our ancestors will enjoy these treasured heirloom photographs.
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