Life is beautiful, and it is happening all around us all the time. And as it happens, you are taking pictures of every significant event along the way. Consequently, your treasure chest of priceless photos never stops growing. Sooner or later, your closet is full and overflowing with photos in albums, boxes, and bags, and you discover that it is increasingly difficult to find what you are looking for in the mix. This is the point where many of us make the resolution to organize our closets full of photos. If this describes your photo collection, Doorstep Digital has some helpful tips.
- Evaluate your photo collection’s current storage containers. Are they sturdy enough to keep photos from being bent or torn? Do they protect photos from atmospheric conditions over time? Do they hold the photos in such a way that is conducive to maintaining organization and manageability?
- Cardboard shoe boxes are not bad for storage because they are more breathable than plastic and more sturdy than paper or plastic bags. However, shoe boxes will not protect against water damage from flooding or other disasters.
- Albums are great organization tools, but they, too, have their drawbacks in light of long term storage. Albums with sticky background pages are especially known for damaging photos since you risk tearing the photos when you try to remove them. Plastic covers and photo pockets can also cause discoloration in photos over long periods of time. If your photos are relatively old and appear to have an orange tint, you may want to remove them from the album to prevent further damage.
- A happy alternative to albums and random boxes and bags is the archival photo storage box. These boxes are designed specifically for photo preservation, and they can be found at The Container Store, B&H, or Amazon.com. However, it is important to remember that, like shoe boxes, not all archival photo storage boxes are water resistant.
- When you live in a humid environment like Houston, you will want to protect your photos from moisture in the air and flooding. Therefore, be sure to keep your photos “high and dry.”
- At Doorstep Digital, we store photo collections in Sterilite plastic bins with lids that snap tightly shut. These bins are great for protecting the photos from water damage. We prefer the clear bins because it is easier to see the contents without having to open and dig through them, a nice feature when trying to keep things organized. Sterilite plastic bins can be found at Wal-mart and other stores like it.
- These plastic bins are great for protecting against moisture or water damage, but will effect and slowly degrade the photos due to the plastic interacting with the chemicals on the photos…so be aware! Photos are not to different than humans. We like to breath in dry climates! 🙂
- It is best to already have a good system of organization in mind before you begin categorizing your photos. At Doorstep Digital, we primarily use a simple but very effective method in which we label albums and other storage containers based on the year the photos were taken and the event that they represent, followed by the family name. Below is an example of what one of our labels might look like:
“1999 – Christmas – Tucker Family”
- You may decide that you want to take the next step in photo preservation and not only organize your collection, but also digitally archive it so that you have a reproducible copy in case anything should happen to your originals due to house fires, hurricanes, or other mishaps. Another good reason to make digital copies is that when you need to find something in particular, it is much easier to navigate through organized folders on a computer than to search through cumbersome piles of originals. Digital copies are also easier to share with family or friends via email or text message, etc.
- In order to digitally archive your photo collection, you can scan the photos yourself on a personal scanner (our blog article on scanner types can be found here), or you can call Doorstep Digital to scan, organize, and back-up your photo collection for you. We will work with you to implement an organization method that suits your specific needs, and we scan photos, slides, and negatives at high resolutions to ensure that we provide you with an excellent reproducible digital copy. We also will help you learn ways to back-up your digital copies on both physical storage devices and on storage clouds like Dropbox.
So when you are faced with the daunting task of organizing and/or archiving your photo collection, don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of any assistance. Happy reminiscing!
By Carol Lyon, Houston Digital Archivist