Take the First Step
The most important part of a preservation effort is taking the first step. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection be an obstacle to getting started. A simple first step like moving photos out of the attic or basement to a bedroom closet will have a significant impact.
Factors to consider are temperature, relative humidity, light, pests, mold, water leaks and risk of flooding, and handling.
Temperature and Humidity
- Get your keepsakes out of the attic or the basement
- Keep them in a climate-controlled part of your home
- Avoid extremes in temperature and relative humidity
- Minimize handling and handle with care
- Fully support items
- Make sure hands are clean
- Protect items from dust, light, and handling with acid-free boxes, folders, or polyester sleeves
- Make copies—digital or photocopies
- Distribute copies geographically (among family members, for example)
- Store the original safely and use the copy for display
- Avoid plastic containers and sleeves that smell like a new shower curtain (PVC); types of safe and inert plastics includes polyethylene and polypropylene
Label, Label, Label
- One of the greatest risks to photographs andaudio and video recordings is poor or missing labels
- Items are unidentifiable without a descriptive label
- Use pencil when writing on the back of photos
- Identify people, places, and dates in detail (instead of “Mom,” write Mom’s full name)
If you’re not sure… ask someone
- Library of Congress’ Ask a Librarian: www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/
- Regional Alliance for Preservation: www.rap-arcc.org
- Attend a preservation workshop at your local library or regional preservation center.