Safely Removing Old Photos from Construction Paper

Dear Donia,
How do I safely remove old photos from construction paper?

Scrapbook photos


Q. Dear Donia,

In moving my 96-year-old mother to assisted living, I have discovered a scrapbook in which she glued photographs from her childhood in Europe on both sides of cheap construction paper. These are photos I've never seen before, but they have great significance to our family history. I can see writing on the backs of a few that have peeled away a bit. How can I safely remove them? I would greatly appreciate your advice. Thank you, Tania

A. Dear Tania,

What a wonderful reminder of your mother's life! 

Removing photos from album pages can be very difficult depending on how they were applied. If they were attached with photo corners, it is easy to slide them out and put them back. 

If they are glued, it is a bit more difficult. If they are glued only at the corners, you can carefully separate them from the album page with an icing knife or other thin-bladed item without serration if the paper of the page is brittle. If the paper is still good, it may be more difficult, so proceed with extreme caution. You don't want to tear the photograph.

If the photographs are glued to the page over their entire surface, it will be best to leave things alone or to contact a conservator. The folks at the Huntington Library might have recommendations for conservators in the area that could help you.