Sunday, September 23, 2018

Labeling Photographs in an Archival-Safe Manner

People in earlier times didn't know how to protect documents and photographs in an archival way. They didn't necessarily have access to acid-free pens, pencils, mounts, sheet protectors, and other items. Unfortunately, photographs were glued into albums or mounted in "magnetic" albums that used materials that caused fading and disintegration of the very paper. Papers filed in cardboard boxes and in wooden drawers also suffered from acidic conditions that permanently damaged and discolored them. And materials filed with newsprint were practically doomed to destruction.

We, on the other hand, can easily obtain archival-safe items from office supply stores and vendors on the Internet. It is our responsibility as "family archivists" to properly store and label items, and to help preserve even those things that have been damaged in the past.

The use of acid-free polypropylene sheet protectors, available from any office supply store, should be used to encase every item. This isolates each document or photograph and prevents it from "contaminating" adjacent items. Newspaper clippings, city directories, and other things printed on newsprint should be scanned on acid-free paper and stored to preserve them. The original newsprint item should then be discarded or isolated from all other materials.

Finally, we should never label photographs or other documents with ordinary lead pencils or ink pens.  Ordinary pencil can fade over time. Ink may bleed through the paper, and the chemical composition of the ink may be injurious to other materials. Ink, too, may fade and become illegible over time.  

There are special archival-safe pencils available specifically for labeling photographs and other documents.  Check with office supply and photo supply companies for these pencils and for other archival supplies such as acid-free binders, folders, boxes, photo mounts, and other related supplies.

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