Question by CARL R: What is the best way to prepare numerous photographs for long-term storage in West Texas heat (up to 120º F)?
I have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of color photographs, mostly 3″ x 5″, presently stored in a large cardboard box. I must put these photographs into long-term storage in a non air-conditioned commercial storage building in a metropolitan Texas city. They are presently in the paper envelopes which they came in after being processed by the photography store.
Answer by Bill Oscar
My first suggestion would be to store these with someone who has a climate controlled dwelling, BUT I’m guessing since you are on here asking then you can’t do that. In that case –
Take the photographs (and negatives if they are film shots) out of the little envelope. Go to a good camera store or online and purchase ARCHIVAL SAFE photo sleeves or pages, binders for them to go in, and ARCHIVAL SAFE negative sheets (if needed). They will cost a bit of money, but if you want to keep your pictures they are worth it (science content provided at end). Put all pics and neggys into sheets. To be able to locate negatives quickly, place all pics from one roll into one section with the sheets of negatives and then put a page divider between that roll and the next. This way each roll of film has the negatives and pictures together. The sheets go in a normal three ring binder, or you can get fancy binders that will seal like a box to keep dust out (not really necessary, I have tons of pics in regular binders).
Next, whatever container you place these binders into put dessicant packets into the container to keep moisture at bay. These can be purchased at a hardware store. Then, when you place your stuff into the storage locker, put in a few cans of Damp Rid. These containers are like dessicant packets on steriods.
WARNING! SCIENCE CONTENT!!! The reason you should use the archival safe storage sheets as opposed to the envelopes is due to a process called leaching. Basically, the paper the envelopes are made out of contain chemicals that over time will seep out and attack the photos. Archival safe storage products (as well as archival safe tapes, papers, etc) do not have these chemicals. All archival safe products must pass tests that show they will go 100yrs before causing damage to the items they are in contact with.
Just to let you know, even with all these precautions 120f temps (which will probably get hotter in the storage locker) are extremely damaging to photographs. The steps above will give them the best chance they have, but there is still a chance they will be damaged. Just remember to control the humidity as much as possible to give yourself the best chance you can.
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