Preserve albums, displays and negatives

Best storage solution—albums and scrapbooks

Photo albums and scrapbooks (made of materials that pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) with paper pages and plastic cover sheets provide the best storage for your photographs. Each picture is completely enclosed and the pages provide support. Place the album in a custom fitted archival box.

Use paper or plastic corners that pass the PAT to secure your photos to the album pages. You fold them into a triangular pocket and slide the photos into them. They have a small amount of safe adhesive on the back that you moisten to make them stick. You can use 2 (one each in opposite corners) for small photos, but use 4 for large ones.

Avoid most adhesives, pressure-sensitive tapes, staples. There are safe adhesive made of purified starch paste and adhesives made of methyl cellulose (Dow A4M MC) or other modified cellulose. Apply in small dots on back of the photo.

Captions can be written with an acid-free pen or typed. Just be sure the paper and printing ink is free of acid and lignin. Use caution with colorful additions to scrapbooks; colored dyes can bleed onto photos.

Displaying photographsframe


A properly mounted framed photo has an archival quality mat and paper backing, and protective glass cover. The mat will form a barrier between the photo and the glass and prevent the photo from sticking to the glass. Rotate your displayed photos to minimize exposure to light. Or, Make good copies and frame that. Store the original.




Negatives and slides

Store negatives in PAT standard enclosures. Film-based negatives produce acidic vapors as they age, so surround them with alkaline buffered paper to absorb the acid and store them separately from other negatives and photos. The best way to store film-based negatives is low-humidity, cold storage. Any film-based negatives that are sticky, bubbly, wavy, flaking, or smell vinegary are a danger to your collection and should be removed.

Store slides in PAT standard slide cases, boxes, or plastic slide pages. That way they will be well supported and organized.


“Care, Handling, and Storage of Photographs”  Library of Congress

“Preparing Your Family Treasures”  Library of Congress         

“Preserving Family Papers”  National Archives

"Caring for your Photographs”  American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), provided by Stanford University

More preserve photos

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