Do you still have old photos printed on paper? Even in the digital era, people still save their old photos as a way to preserve family history. They store those old photos in lots of different ways. That’s what this post is about. Suffice it to say that there are right and wrong ways to do it.
Assuming you want to preserve your old photos for as long as possible, it pays to be very careful about how and where you store them. It has been our experience that a closet shelf is the best way to go. Closets are perfect receptacles for boxes and plastic storage bins containing old photos, pictures, postcards, etc.
Dark, Dry, and Cool
Old photos printed on paper are subject to natural degradation over time. Remember that paper is a wood product. In other words, it is organic. Without a concerted effort to preserve it, paper will eventually biodegrade all by itself. Degradation is exacerbated by light, moisture, and heat.
Closets are an ideal option for storing old photos because they tend to be dark, dry, and cool. In terms of darkness, exposing old photos to as little light as possible is ideal. It is all about how light rays affect paper and ink.
Those same UV rays that can cause carpets and upholstery to fade do a real number on paper and ink. That is why photos displayed openly tend to fade over time. UV rays break down the ink and damage the fibers of the paper. Get those photos out of the light and they last longer.
Moisture and heat are just as bad for paper. They break down paper fibers and cause ink to fade and wash out. Storing old photos on a closet shelf protects them against moisture and warm air.
Store in Airtight Containers
Your best protection against light, moisture, and heat is an airtight container made of an opaque material. However, there are some considerations here as well. First is whether or not your photos are kept in albums. Photo albums are great as long as they do not contain acidic papers and chemicals capable of degrading photographic paper.
If your photos are not kept in albums, that means you are stacking them inside the storage container. That’s fine as long as the photos are kept flat. In such a case, a plastic container is a lot better than a cardboard box. Albums or not, an airtight container stored on a closet shelf eliminates virtually any risk of your photos being exposed to things that will harm them.
Putting Photos in Self-Storage
We tend to recommend against storing old photos in boxes kept at a self-storage facility. Even when the chosen facility offers climate control, you never really know. A self-storage locker is out of sight and out of mind. You can never really be sure that climate control is consistent.
If you do have to use self-storage, do not ever place storage containers directly on the floor. Get everything up off the floor by using shelves, racks, or wooden pallets. This reduces the risk of damage in the event of minor flooding. It also makes your containers harder for critters to get into.
At the end of the day, we firmly believe that a closet shelf is the best location for storing old photos. A closet offers protection against light, moisture, and heat. Best of all, storing your old photos in a closet at home guarantees they are easily accessible when you want to look at them.