Genealogy Wise

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Handling and Sorting

Older photographs are fragile and easily damaged. The best way to reduce damage is to not handle photographs at all. Since that is not always practical, gloves should be worn when they are handled. Gloves prevent transferring dirt and skin oils on the delicate images. When handling images, put on the gloves and hold the prints by their edges.  

If the photo is a cabinet card or a carte de visite, do not remove the photo from the cardstock on which they are mounted. Those vintage images were printed on very thin paper that will not survive removal from their cardstock backing.  

Storage 

Photographs should be stored using archival safe products such as archival sleeves, envelopes, unbuffered tissue paper, and boxes that are available online from archival supply stores. Some examples of archival storage include:  

  • Store case-mounted photographs such as daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, or domed glass frames in their original cases/frames. Wrap them individually in unbuffered archival tissue paper and then place in an archival safe box.  
  • Store black-and-white prints, black-and-white negatives, color prints and negatives in their own individual sleeves. The sleeves can be stored together in the same archival box.  
  • Store negatives in polypropylene or polyester sleeves. 
  • Store original albums separately in their own archival boxes.   

Most archival safe storage boxes come in different sizes and their metal corners allow for stacking and prevent the corners and contents from being crushed. 

Photographs are an important part of telling a family history. Learning how to handle and care for those photos is just one of the topics taught in our Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects course.

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