Photographs are irreplaceable pieces of your history. However irreplaceable they may be, it certainly doesn’t make them indestructible. These fragile memories stay secured in your closets, scrapbooks, and basement until you uncover them for a trip down memory lane.
Keeping them safe is a priority, but their protection stays in the back of your mind—sometimes falling short before you realize the photos are in poor condition. If you want to keep your pictures safe, it’s important to know what can damage your photographs so you can keep them away from those conditions.
Damp or Wet Conditions
It’s no secret that water is a lethal element to photographs of any kind. While few things can survive a flooded basement or water damage, photos go one step further in their vulnerabilities. Moist, humid conditions will cause mold to grow on the pictures themselves or can soften the image. It doesn’t matter whether the room is warm or cold—if it’s humid, your photos are in danger. This often makes basements a poor place to store photographs, especially if your photos are unprotected.
Light gives life to the image on the negative of a photograph, and light takes away life from the photograph itself. Developing photos requires a certain amount of light—too much, and the photograph fades away. If you kept the negative, you could always reprint the image, but it can be painful seeing an antique photo succumb to the causes of image fading. Never store photos where they will receive direct sunlight of any kind if you want to keep them for as long as possible.
Non-Acid-Free Envelopes and Scrapbooks
If you were or are a fan of scrapbooking, it’s essential that you always use acid-free paper, plastic, and adhesives. The acid from typical scrapbooking materials can damage otherwise healthy photographs, even if you’ve protected them from every other element. Before you scrapbook with your difficult-to-replace printed photos, consider using copies instead and protecting the originals in secure storage.
By staying vigilant in avoiding what can damage your photographs, generations to come will be able to see images that would otherwise be lost to time.