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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 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

The worst archival evils

How to best preserve your...





Photograph albums


Home movies



oh the horror
Oh, the horror!

Archival hazards

  • Light
  • Heat
  • Humidity
  • Water
  • Pests
  • Careless handling
  • "Enhancements"


paper paper everywhere
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.


paper paper everywhere5
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.


save your photographs
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).


save your photographs7
Save 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.


save your photographs8
Save your 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!


save your digital photographs
Save 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.


create long lasting ink jet prints
Use the best combination of paper and ink.

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.


construct archival albums
Construct 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.


construct archival albums12
Construct 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.


preserve older albums
Preserve 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.


care for your books
Care for 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.


make those home movies last
Make 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.


need more help
Need 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