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Digital cameras and scanners were not available when our ancestors were creating visual records of their lives and times. For them, photography was a process of taking pictures with film cameras, and having the film processed and prints created from negatives. Even earlier, photography involved the transfer of images onto chemically-treated metal plates or sheets of glass. These processes produced images that were state-of-the-art for the day, but have not held up well over time. Old photographs may fade, lose color, and generally succumb to exposure to the elements.

Although preserving these precious heirlooms has become a priority for many family historians, they may lack the necessary skills and tools to do so. A little commmon sense and some thoughtful preparation will help preserve old photos for future generations to enjoy. Consider the following information when preparing to display, frame, or store photographic prints and negatives.

For further information on preservation of photographic prints and negatives, please refer to these web sites:

American Museum of Photography - Historical background of photographic processes - "The Destructive Power of the Newspaper"

Archival Products - Newsletter archive containing photo preservation information

Clark Historical Library, Central Michigan University - "Preserving Memories: Caring for Your Heritage"

Conservation Online - Resources for Conservation

Kodak Technical Data - "Storage and Care of Photographic Materials, Before and After Processing"

Library of Congress - "Caring for Your Collections"

Preservation Technologies - Archiving products and services; makers of "Archival Mist"

Identification of photograph types - learn how to tell the difference between the various photographic processes and their impact on dating an unknown photograph

PhotoTree - a site dedicated to research, dating, and preservation of 19th century photographs.

© 2013 Joe Defazio, Uncle Joe's Genealogy 

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