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Preserve Your Personal Heritage: Photo Storage

Print Photo Storage

While there are best practices for the long(er)-term preservation of digital images, the most stable format for photograph preservation is printing them out.  You may not want to print out all of your photographs, but consider this for the images that are most meaningful to you.  

When you make prints of your photographs it is recommended that you have them done professionally rather than printing them at home.  Whether it is Wal-Mart, Snapfish, or a professional photographer's studio, these images will surivive longer if they are printed on the proper acid-free paper using acid-free, fade resistant ink.  You may want to consider printing out some photos in black and white because color tends to fade over time.

Physical prints are best preserved in a stable environment: a temperatureof 65-70F and humidity of 35-50%.  It can be difficult to maintain such a controlled environment in your home, however there are other factors you can take into consideration when storing your prints in your home. You can store your photographs in the coolest and driest spot in your home that stays that way year round. While finished basements are cool they are usually too damp for photo storage unless they are dehumidified. If photos are exposed to too much humidity they can start to stick together, and mold growth can occur. Usually the best place in your home to store your printed photos is above ground interior closets maintain fairly constant temperatures throughout the year.

Store your images in acid-free containers.  

For more information about storing your printed images look at the National Archives website. 

Storing Digital Photos

When storing digital photographs it is important to remember that these images must be maintained over time.  Unlike printed photographs that can be left in your closet for years, digital images must be updated on a regular basis.

How to store your digital images:

  • Preserve your photographs on at least two different media types (i.e. Computer hard drive, CD-ROM, flash drive...)
  • Store these copies in two different places to avoid loss through physical disaster
  • Create a printed photo inventory (Hint: Create a print screen of your listed photographs!)
  • Check your photos at least once ayear to make sure you can read them
  • Create new media copies every 5 years or as necessary to prevent data loss
  • As you add new images to you main database, do not forget to copy them to your back-up(s) as well!

Digital Heritage

™Photographs are a gateway to the past
™Modern photography methods require active maintenance to ensure long-term preservation
™Technology changes quickly, we must actively engage with our digital heritage to preserve it for ourselves and the future
™How do we do this?