Black and white as well as color photos decay with time. Light, heat (even at moderate temperatures, such as 70-75F, found in homes) and relative high humidity (above 60%) causes fading and deterioration of photographs.
Color photos will last longer if stored in the dark, in a cool dry location. However, only storage at cold temperatures can stop this irreversible decay process. Cold storage is not practical for most people and can even cause more immediate damage if used improperly.
By carefully choosing the mounting materials, storage materials, and storage location for your photographs you will help your photographs last longer.
How to Store and Preserve Your Family Photos?
Since prints and negatives can stick together, it is best to store them in separate envelopes or plastic sleeves. When storing mounted prints, be sure to place a sheet of paper or plastic between them. Within these enclosures, your prints and negatives can be stored in acid-free storage boxes on a shelf or in steel file cabinets.
Photo albums are convenient and popular ways to store (and share) your memories. When choosing your album, make sure the album pages are acid fee. When shopping for albums, be sure the album is "archival".
Take your photos out of "magnetic" or peel and stick albums. The materials they are made of - ordinary plastic, glue and cardboard - will damage photos over time. If you do decide to use a commercial photo album, look for one labeled "acid-free."
Remove any glue, tape, staples, rubber bands and paper clips that might stain, scratch or dent photographs before placing them in an acid-free album, storage box or frame.
Be sure to label the back of the photo gently with a permanent marker. Include the names and ages of those in the photo along with where the photograph was taken. This will help those who inherit your photographs identify them. Do not use a ballpoint pen to write on the back of photographs. The pressure of the pen may damage the photo and the ink will likely fade over time.
To store photographs individually, place them in plastic sleeves.
Store large quantities of photos by layering them between sheets of acid-free paper in metal or acid-free cardboard boxes.
When framing, use acid-free mat between the glass and the photo to prevent your prints from sticking to the glass over time.
Also use acid-free backboards to avoid deterioration of the image. If you are having a photograph professionally framed, be sure to tell the framer you want acid-free materials. They are more expensive (but worth it), so they won't use them automatically.
If you are framing a precious photograph, consider having it duplicated before placing it under glass just in case it fades over time while on display. Glass should be preferably with an anti-UV coating.
Wood and wood products, like cardboard and paper, harm photographs and should only be used if labeled "acid-free."
Keep photos out of attics, garages and basements where they'll be subject to extreme temperature fluctuations and excessive humidity.
Finally, consider making copies of your family photos or storing them electronically. You can do this by scanning photos or by taking negatives to a photo processor and having them put them in electronic format for you.
When displayed, photos should be kept away from direct sunlight or bright lamps that are left on constantly.