Preserving Family Photos: Protecting Images from Loss or Damage

Protecting them and preserving them for future generations is simple with the right tools and techniques. Create backup copies and keep the original images from fading or damage by following a few simple rules for safeguarding photographs.

Digital Copies

Creating digital copies of family photos is one of the best ways to ensure its protection. While original images may be lost in a fire or natural disaster, digital ones can be stored in safety and retrieved at any time. Keep copies preserved in online storage accounts like Carbonite; or burn the images onto CDs and keep in a safe deposit box. Share digital images through flash drives and CD-ROM disks with other family members – the more copies in circulation, the better the chance that the images can be replaced someday if necessary.

Making a digital copy of a vintage family photo is as easy as scanning it into a computer. A quality scanner can hold several images at once, meaning multiple photos can be scanned for storage as a single page and digitally separated later.

Acid-Free Storage

Preserve original photos in storage boxes or albums away from bright sunlight, dampness, and extreme temperatures. Acid-free photo paper is a good choice for separating the images and wrapping delicate photos like tintypes or antique copies. When displaying photos in a family photo album, rotate the images periodically from display to storage, to keep the photos from slowly adhering to the pages over time.

Try to avoid cheap plastic or vinyl covers for photos, since certain climate conditions can cause the image to adhere to the plastic. Storing antique photos loose-leaf fashion in boxes will cause them to bump against each other, possibly scratching the images and bending corners. Use specialty paper and cardboard to separate them from each other; try storing them in a plastic shoebox with a snap-on lid instead.

 

Framed Copies

Framed family photos are also at risk, since temperature changes adhere photo paper to glass or a sudden spill may soak an image beyond salvaging. For antique or vintage family photos, an accident may spell the end of a unique family memento. Consider framing copies of these family photos instead of the originals when the photo is displayed in a high-risk setting (i.e., a wall facing direct sunlight or a table located in a high-traffic part of the house).

Quality copies printed on photo paper or card stock can look as attractive as the original when framed, while protecting a rare family photo from potential damage.

From physical copies to digital backups, the methods for preserving family photos are easy enough that anyone can protect these mementos from harm and preserve them for future generations.

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