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Preservation 101 Basic Tips for the Household Archivist Michelle Light, Acting Head of Special Collections and Archives University of California, Irvine Libraries [email protected] The worst archival evils How to best preserve your... Papers Photographs Traditional Digital

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Preservation 101Basic Tips for the Household Archivist Michelle Light, Acting Head of Special Collections and ArchivesUniversity of California, Irvine [email protected]

Overview l.jpg

The worst archival evils

How to best preserve your...





Photograph albums


Home movies



Oh the horror l.jpg
Oh, the horror!

Archival hazards

  • Light

  • Heat

  • Humidity

  • Water

  • Pests

  • Careless handling

  • "Enhancements"


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Paper, paper, everywhere

  • Acidic paper = bad

    • Acidic paper turns brown and extremely brittle.

    • Acid from low quality paper can bleed onto neighboring pieces of paper.


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Paper, paper, everywhere

Store your paper to protect it from six hazards:

  • Keep at a stable humidity. Humidity above 70% promotes mold. Rapid changes damage paper.

  • Keep away from heat. Heat causes paper to decay.

  • Keep away from light. Light causes fading.

  • Handle carefully to prevent tears.

  • Avoid curling or folding. Store flat (horizontally or vertically) in acid-free folders.

  • Beware of acid. Isolate acidic paper. Make preservation photocopies.


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Store photos and negatives in a dark, cool, dry and ventilated place.

Relative humidity of 20-50%.

Temperature of 65-70ºF.

Save your photographs

  • Protect your photographs.

    • Enclose in safe plastics (Mylar®, Hostaphan® or Melinex; polyester, polypropylene, and polyethylene).

    • Enclose in acid-free, lignin-free, paper envelopes or folders.

    • All supplies should pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).


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Save ventilated place your photographs

  • Hold photographs & negatives at their edge.

  • Label your photographs

    • Write on enclosures OR

    • Write on the back

      • Use No. 2 pencil for B&W

      • Use felt tip, film marking pens for color.

      • Write on the of the photograph on a flat, hard surface.


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Save ventilated placeyour photographs

  • Display copies on the wall; protect your originals. Light will fade them.

  • If you really want to display them...

    • Use museum-quality mat board.

    • Make sure photographs don't stick to the glass.

    • Use photo corners, edge strips, or paper hinges.

    • Display infrequently.

    • Keep away from bright light, heat, and dampness.

  • Should I digitize?

    • Sure, but don't throw away the originals!


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Save ventilated place your digital photographs

  • Take images at high resolution.

  • Use common image formats (.jpg, .tif)

  • Organize them logically.

  • Back them up often.

  • Understand the consequences of compression whenever you save. (Jpeg files are compressed.)

  • Add captions that can travel long-term with the photographs.

  • Avoid investing in proprietary or uncommon software.


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Use the best combination of paper and ink. ventilated place

Pigment-based inks are more stable than dye-based inks but have a smaller color range.

Select archival papers that areacid-free, buffered, lignin-free and optical brightener-free.

Coated ink jet papers work best with compatible inks.

Create long-lasting ink jet prints

  • Control the storage environment.

    • Ink jet photographs are more sensitive than traditional prints.


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Construct ventilated place archival albums

  • All papers, plastics, and

    adhesives should pass the

    Photographic Activity Test (PAT),

    particularly anything that comes

    into contact with the photographs.

    • Colored paper rarely passes the PAT.

    • Never laminate.

  • Types of albums

    • Plastic pocket pages

    • Paper pages (with or without plastic covers)

    • Self-stick albums (Avoid at ALL costs.)

  • The album should provide room for expansion.


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Construct ventilated place archival albums

  • When adhering items to paper pages…

    • Do not use household white or yellow glues, hot glue guns, and rubber cement. They can fail, or cause staining or fading.

  • Do not use tape, even tape labeled as “archival” or passing the PAT. They ooze beyond their edges.

  • Use plastic or paper photo corners that have passed the PAT.

  • Use preservation quality adhesives, (e.g., purified starch paste or methyl cellulose) but dry carefully and don’t add too much.


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Preserve ventilated place older albums

  • Older albums on black or colored paper…

    • May not be harming your photographs.

    • Staining and fading could be from poor photo processing, not the paper.

    • Interleave pages with plastic sheets or acid-free paper.

  • Self-stick albums

    • Don’t remove photographs if the adhesive is too tacky.

    • Store and handle albums carefully.


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Care ventilated placefor your books

  • Keep books away from light, humidity, and heat.

  • Dust carefully with a dry, lint-free cloth or a soft-bristled brush.

  • Shelve books vertically; store large volumes flat.

  • Don't pull a book off the shelf with the top of its spine.

  • Leave an inch in front of and behind the book.

  • Don't force a book open too far.

  • Use bookmarks, not folded corners.

  • Avoid post-it notes, inksand highlighters.


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Make ventilated place those home movies last

  • Store in a cool, ventilated, dark, dry place.

  • Keep away from dust, smoke, and oil. Keep videos away from electromagnetic fields.

  • Play on well-maintained equipment.

  • Store videos on their side. Before storing, play through and do not rewind.

  • Store film reels flat. Make sure they are evenly wound.

  • Migrate videos often...or lose them.

    • Videotapes degrade quickly (lifespan = 10-30 years).

    • DVD formats keep changing.

    • Be aware of compression in digital files.


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Need ventilated place more help?

  • More advice

    • California Preservation training_tools.html

    • Canadian Conservation

    • Library of

    • National family-archives

    • Northeast Document Conservation

    • Society of California

    • Wilhelm Imaging

  • Archival suppliers

    • Creative

    • Gaylord

    • Hollinger

    • Light

    • Metal Edge,

    • Get Smart


    • University

    • Webway Photograph