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Storing your precious photos and documents should include containers and albums that are both acid and lignin free. Adhesives, pens, markers, stickers, and anything else that comes into contact with your photographs also need to be both acid-free and lignin-free. There is a spray you can purchase called “Archival Mist” that will neutralize acids and create an alkaline buffer.

Digitizing by scanning items into your computer is one of the best ways I have found to preserve, but if your computer crashes you lose everything.  So you must have a good backup system. DVD backups are not always safe. Discs may not burn correctly, and discs can become corrupt even in a short amount of time. I had a file become corrupt on one of my safely stored discs and it was only 2 years old.

A second and even a third hard drive might be safer. External hard drives don’t cost much and connect via USB, so they are easy to use. But nothing is completely safe. Multiple backups on a variety of media are the best way to go when storing digitally.

When digitizing, never throw out the originals. Newer and better technologies will come in the future and make digitizing, restoring, and preserving even better.  I scanned some of my better photos for safe keeping just a few years ago, but am doing it all over again because I now have better equipment to make larger and more enhanced scans. And with the correct software, you can even fix flaws in your originals, such as removing rips & acid spots, enhancing images by giving more contrast and taking away fading, and even touching up shine on glasses.

Storage of your originals inside acid and lignin free contains is only half the battle. Your storage area also needs to be cool and free from excessive humidity. The warmer the temperature, the faster colors will fade. A temperature below 35 degrees and low humidity is best. Basements are generally too humid and attics too dry. It’s also best to store them in a place where the temperature and humidity doesn’t fluctuate; otherwise you’ll get curling and cracking. Avoid things like paper clips and rubber bands, and use pencil rather than ink.

Don’t store photos in envelopes, and don’t handle them any more than necessary. Oils from your fingers can cause deterioration. Polyethylene is not good for long-term storage, and vinyl of any type should be avoided. Cardboard, wood, and many plastics give off gases that do damage.