Restoring Moldy Photos

Dear Donia,
How can I restore moldy photos that are stuck together?


Q. Dear Donia,

I've found a box of family snapshots, probably from the 1950's or 60's that are totally moldy or mildewed and stuck together. Should they be discarded or is there any hope of restoration? Thanks, Marilyn

A. Dear Marilyn,

I am sorry to hear that you have found mold on some of your family snapshots. Mold is always a tricky problem to tackle.

It is difficult to give a definitive answer whether your photos are salvageable or should be discarded without seeing them. Depending on the amount of mold present, and how much damage the mold has done, it may be possible to salvage some of the snapshots. Mold damage on photographs can damage the adhesion of the image layer to the paper underneath so that if you tried to separate the photos, the image would simply peel off.

Your best bet is to have the box of snapshots looked at by a conservator in your area. A good place to start would be at the Balboa Art Conservation Center near you in San Diego. They should have someone there who can take a look and give you the best advice.

Good luck!