Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos.

If you’re like me, you’ve inherited old photo albums with the pictures held down on so called magnetic pages. The trouble with these albums  is that the adhesive used and the plastic liners damage the photos over time. Removing the photos is a priority. I went looking for help and boiled my research down to these seven essential steps.

Step 1. Before attempting any photo removal make certain to scan digitally  each album page so that should a photo be damaged, you can still recover it from the scanned image.

Step 2. Select a practice photo that has no value to you or is badly out of focus. A word of caution. When removing  photos be sure not to curl or peel them back as this could cause permanent damage.

Step 3. Use a piece of dental floss and carefully pull it under one corner of the photo. Using a sawing motion slowly work your way to the opposite corner. With any luck the photo should pop right off.

Step 4. If  a photo is glued so tightly that floss won’t work, then try one of the following removal methods:

a. Use un-do, an adhesive remover that won’t harm photos. It comes with an applicator that allows you to slip the remover under the photo.

b. Place the album page in your freezer for a few minutes. The glue will become brittle, making it easier to remove the photo.

c. Use a hair dryer set on low heat. Run it back and forth on the back of the page holding the photo. Be careful not to overheat the photo as this could damage it. Once the glue has softened, quickly and carefully remove the picture.

d. Place the photo album page in a microwave. Make certain there are no metallic pieces. Start the microwave and run it for five seconds. Check the photo and keep using five  second blasts until the glue softens and the photo comes free.

Step 5. Take your photos and where possible  write on the back the following information: the names of people in the photo, their ages,  the year, the location, and the event. Avoid using a ball point pen as this could damage the photo. Use a soft lead pencil or an acid free pen available from a craft store.

Step 6. Digitally scan your photos, store them on your hard drive, and than upload them to a web based site like Flickr or Picasa. That way if your hard drive crashes, you won’t lose your digitized photos.

Step 7. Store your photos in cardboard photo boxes that pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). You can obtain such boxes at Archival Methods, Carr McLean, Light Impressions, Gaylord, and University Products. If you have a large collection, layer an acid free sheet of paper between each photo. Photos should be kept in a cool room with low humidity. That generally means keeping them out of attics and basements.

Photo by iStockphoto

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3 responses to “Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos.

  1. Pingback: Follow Friday - Zalewski Family Genealogy

  2. There are a couple of tools that Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist introduced me to that are very helpful. The first is the Stabilo All pencil that will write on the backs of the more modern photos that won’t take a “regular” pencil. The second is a microspatula. I was able to get both from gaylord.com. Hope this helps.

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