How to Store Documents and Photos

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Weather conditions can affect how photos age and the quality of paper documents. If properly stored, you can rest assured that no family photos are ever damaged.

Boxes can be used to store items but the folders must fit exactly inside. Do not use boxes that require the items to be bent or folded. Use containers that are big enough for originals to lay flat or upright. Use a spacer board if there are not enough items to fill an upright box. Do not overstuff the box to avoid creasing and crumpled edges.

Large sheets or items can be rolled up. Use a sturdy tube and quality archival paper that is buffered with low-lignin content. The tube should be at least two inches longer than the width of the widest sheet.

Polyester L-sleeves are another storage option. These work well if the items are heavily used, torn, or brittle and reduce the risk of tears or other damage. Do not use the sleeves in books since the sharp edges will tear the book pages. Place only one item in a sleeve and make sure all of the text or image is visible. Use sleeves that are larger than the item to ensure ample coverage.

Albums are the most popular form of storage and there are many styles that are safe. The most important part of the album is the quality of the album pages. Do not overstuff your album by adding too many items to the pages or too many pages in the album. Do not use glue or adhesive to mount photos and papers. Instead, use pages or envelopes that are acid free and sleeves made of stable plastic.

No matter what kind of storage you choose to use, keep the relative humidity in the storage space below 65% to prevent mold growth. Very low relative humidity, below 15%, can cause brittleness. Keep the items in lower temperatures, below 75 degree Fahrenheit, as well as cooler temperatures slow the rate of chemical decay. For acetate negatives and color negatives, slides, and prints vulnerable to fading, consider cold storage.

Do not store items in damp areas like basements or garages. Store items off of the floor in case of flooding and away from food to avoid insects and rodents.

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