Storing analog material

In case something should happen to your digital copies, it’s important to keep your originals safe as well. Here are some steps you can follow to protect your photos and videos for longer.

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In case something should happen to your digital copies, it's important to keep your originals safe as well. 

 Improper storage can cause original materials to degrade rapidly and can shorten an already small lifespan. Luckily, you can make your photos, videos and audio tapes last longer by following these steps: 

  • Photographs, negatives, slides, and videos will last longer when stored in low humidity and cool temperatures. Photographs are best stored below 20º C and negatives at around 0 - 4º C at 30-40% Relative Humidity. Generally, consistent, cool and dry conditions are best
  • Avoid storing your originals in hot attics, or in damp basements which can be prone to flooding
  • Keep your storage containers on shelves off the floor 
  • Store your originals away from food, plants, and standing water - these can attract moisture and insects
  • Keep your negatives and prints in separate enclosures
  • If your negatives or tapes smell of vinegar, they likely have “vinegar syndrome”. This is a sign of deterioration and can affect other materials that are nearby. Separate them into another container 
  • If you find moisture on any of your originals, remove them from storage
  • If you find mold on any of your originals, remove them from storage and consider throwing them away. Exposure to mold is dangerous:
    • Change storage conditions to make sure mold doesn’t continue to grow
    • Send contaminated items to a conservator if they are valuable
    • Never play moldy or dirty tapes
  • You can find supplies like acid-free boxes and sleeves at Brodart or Carr Mclean. If you don’t have archival storage, keeping your originals in containers and envelopes can help them last longer
  • Never use glue, tape, metal staples or paper clips on photographs, negatives or slides 
  • Storing your photographs in albums can also be a good way to keep them safe and well organized. Avoid using magnetic or self-adhesive albums, which can damage your photographs
  • Label individual items or containers with the who, what, when, where, as well as the format they are in. This will help others understand them in the future
  • Store videotapes vertically and in their boxes. Don’t stack tapes
  • Store magnetic tapes away from anything that can create an electromagnetic field. This includes loud speakers and other hardware with magnets, high voltage lines, and surge protectors
  • Remove tapes from their players when they’re not in use
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