To celebrate Preservation Week, we'll be listing some quick steps you can take to protect your collection.
Many people have old photo albums and scrapbooks in their collection. The vast majority of these are not photo-friendly and will permanently damage your family photos. Scrapbooks were frequently made with an acidic black paper that deteriorates quickly. You'll notice that the edges of this black paper start to break and flake away, often leaving fragments behind on shelving and in boxes. Glue and tape were commonly used to adhere photos and other items to scrapbook pages. These adhesives can cause yellowing and may also embrittle the photos. Generally, you will want to keep a scrapbook intact, especially if the creator has handwritten labels on the pages. It can be helpful to place acid-free tissue paper between the pages. This will prevent items from pressing directly against one another and causing discoloration.
Magnetic photo albums have pages lined with thin strips of glue and covered with a clear plastic covering. The glue will discolor photos - sometimes after only a decade of storage. If you are able, slowly and cautiously peel your photos away from the glue backing for proper storage. Unfortunately, this glue can be very sticky and you need to be sure that your photos will not tear. If you can't remove them from the pages without rips, then it is better to leave them in the album. Scan the photos while they are in the album so you can make copies. Keep these copies in polyethylene photo sleeves.
Acid-free tissue paper and polyethylene photo sleeves can be found at most archival suppliers. Check with local craft stores, too. Always read the product specifications, as some products may be called "archival" when they really are not preservation-quality.