I’ve been given large portions of my grandmother’s photographic/scrapbook collection and also her eldest brother’s. Some of the photos from his collection in particular seem to have been in one of those black paper scrapbooks at some point, then ripped out of them. Do I need to worry about trying to remove the remnant bits of glue and black (presumably non-acid free) paper off the backs? and if so, how do I get it off safely? For now, I have them in archival bins, but to display them – I’m guessing it would be best to make copies and display those?? Thanks!
First, congratulations on having actual vintage photographs of your family, Missy. All of your instincts are correct. So let’s take it step-by-step:
1. Do not try to remove the adhesive and acidic black bits of the scrapbook paper from the photos.
Photographs from scrapbooks are fragile because the glue and the paper used in scrapbooks were cheap and therefore highly acidic. Add in the chemical processes built in to photographs and you have a recipe for decay. Reversing this process is expensive. So the best alternative is scanning.
2. Scan these photos at a MINIMUM of 300 PPI (pixels per inch)* or more.
The highest available PPI is best because:
Resolution of images can be decreased but not increased.
Scanning once at high resolution means you won’t have to redo your scans later.
*PPI is the measurement for scanning images; DPI (dots per inch) is the measurement for ink dots printing images. These days the terms are used interchangeably.
3. House the original photographs in quality polyester (preferably Mylar) sleeves.
To be completely honest, I get nervous when genealogists tell me they buy acid-free supplies at Walmart, Office Depot, or other retail outlets that aren’t in the preservation business. Now defunct Precious Memories sold “archival” supplies via house parties; Gaylord and other library suppliers also tout their archival supplies. But professional archivists order their archival housing from Hollinger-Metal Edge, the leader in this field since 1945. If they say it’s acid-free, you can count on it. Products I really like include:
If you’ve heard my presentation on organization, you know that this is where you should be spending your storage dollar, rather than on elaborate binders, color-coded systems, and sheet protectors from discounters and office supply stores. Please store your original and vintage materials appropriately in trusted archival supplies like the ones from Hollinger. Please note: I have no financial interest in Hollinger; I recommend them without reimbursement or affiliate fees.
Use code XXV for 20 percent off at checkout through 31 May 2017.
4. Store the originals in a stable environment.
DO NOT store original family papers and photographs in:
Attics or basements or storage spaces where the temperature varies widely throughout the year
Nancy E. Loe, MA, MLS, is a genealogy researcher and educator. After a long career in libraries and archives, Nancy now writes and lectures on her specializations: organizing research and U.S. and European records. She appears frequently at regional, national, and international genealogy conferences. She recently completed two Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy classes on Nordic research and reading German handwriting and Fraktur.