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2.2 Handling Archival Documents

In this lesson you will learn best practices for working with old photos: wear gloves, use acid-free paper or glassine sleeves, keep them dry and out of sunlight, keep them away from food and drink, and more.

2.2 Handling Archival Documents

Hi, this is Marie Gardner for tuts+. Welcome back to Archival Photo Restoration. This lesson is all about best practices for working with old photographs. Printed photographs are, unfortunately, always degrading. >> The photograph, when it was taken, is a chemical process, which is, degrades chemicals. And then ya fix it with the fix it, so you catch a moment in that kind of chemical process that's happening. But you can't stop it, you can only slow it down so the photograph is always degrading, so you're gonna lose it. It doesn't matter what you do, you can't protect the photograph forever. >> What we can do though, is try and prolong an image's life for as long as possible, which means treating and storing them in a particular way. Direct sunlight, chemical compounds, and high humidity are the main enemies of images, and we need to do everything that we can to limit a photograph's exposure to these. In your own home, there's plenty you can do to help keep old photos looking their best. Try not to store them in basements, lofts or garages. Even though all of these are prime locations for our extra bits and pieces, they're prone to get very cold, very hot, too damp or too dry. The Library of Congress recommends that an ideal storage temperature is somewhere around 68 Fahrenheit or 15 and a half degrees Celsius with between 30% and 40% humidity. It's impossible for most of us to hit these exactly at home. But if you think about somewhere like a dark dry cupboard, or closet, then that would be a great place, and far less destructive than your attic. When storing them, you'll want to put them in containers to keep them dry and away from light. Avoid regular cardboard or wooden boxes, as they give off chemicals that can degrade the photos. You can pick up archival quality boxes, which are made from acid free, safe cardboard and reinforced with metal corners relatively cheaply online. Sometimes you can find polypropylene boxes in supermarkets, which are a good cheap alternative. Look for a recycling symbol on the bottom with a five and PP next to it to be sure that they're made from polypropylene and not another plastic. It's important to consider photo sleeves even when storing them in safe boxes as an extra layer of protection and to stop photos sticking or rubbing against each other. Polypropylene and polyester sleeves are both considered safe for the long term storage of photographs. Remember to keep your negatives separate from the prints, in case something happens to the box that they're in. Think of it as an analog version of backing up. When it comes to handling and displaying your photos, try and display extra copies where possible, rather than the original prints. Like in fade photographs and if many people are going to be looking through them then the chemicals on our fingers can do a lot of damage too. >> If the photograph isn't in a plastic sleeve, it's best to wear gloves cause that stops transfer of dirt and oils from your fingers onto the photograph. So yeah, we would ask people to wear gloves and we use latex. We used to use cotton gloves at one time, but your housekeeping has to be fairly good with cotton gloves cause they get dirty very quickly. So if you don't clean them it's pointless wearing them, so we use disposable gloves now. >> Traditionally people love to display photos in an album. But many of the commercially available ones, are made form materials that will be hazardous to your photos so I would advise against it. You can mend your photographs on archive safe paper with archival photo corners. But again I'd strongly suggest that you do this with copies, and not the original. If you are going there though, look for archive safe written on the packaging and check for reviews before you buy. If you're framing or reframing old prints, consider using clear polyester envelopes. This can then be attached to your mount or frame, instead of the picture directly. And the envelope won't be noticeable once the image is back behind glass. As mentioned, wood can give off harmful chemicals, so the polyester envelope will also help to add a degree of protection if you've got a wooden frame. Sunlight and certain fluorescent lights can accelerate fading. So think about placement of your image, or try a filter and acrylic sheet, instead of glass in the frame. Now that we've got a handle on how to treat original images, I'll look at converting them to digital copies in our next lesson. Thanks for watching.

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