We all have boxes of film lying somewhere around our homes. Maybe the negatives are from our childhood, or our great-grandparents’ childhood; either way, they contain precious memories of a different time. By their very nature, negatives and transparencies are extremely delicate and, as such, need to be stored safely in order to ensure that the yearly slideshow that grandpa puts on every Christmas can still be enjoyed. Here are a few tips to help you safeguard the memories of your family.
If you’re familiar with storing photographic prints, storing negatives and transparencies is very much the same. If you’re using paper photo envelopes, take great care to research the quality and type of paper involved: high quality papers and plastic should pass the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) IT9.16 Photographic Activity Test (PAT). Essentially, the PAT determines whether or not the storage material will cause fading or staining in photographs. Additionally, paper photo envelopes should be acid-free with a completely neutral pH since paper pH has been proven as the most significant factor influencing a photo’s strength loss or color deterioration.
Acid-free photo envelopes and folders protect images up to a certain point, but paper is still paper and delicate as a result. If you’re truly looking to preserve your negatives and transparencies for decades to come, you’ll want to invest in an entire container that can safeguard against humidity and heat. Archival portfolio boxes and small drop front boxes offer that extra amount of protection, and can even be combined with archival photo binders as an added precaution against the elements.
Pay Attention to the Signs
Care of fragile negatives goes beyond their storage containers; if you notice a vinegar odor, or a new warp or wrinkle, the plastic in your negatives is deteriorating. Only storage at cold temperatures can slow this irreversible decay process, and most people don’t have access to the frost-free freezers required. However, it is possible to get your negatives duplicated — consider this as an option if they are extremely important to you.
By following these guidelines to the best of your ability, your grandchildren will be able to experience the same slideshow decades from now when you take up the momentous mantle on Christmas.