I realise I risk stating the obvious with this post, but it is something I feel really strongly about, based on my experiences over the past few weeks and have to flag it up again.
So many of us love scrapbooking and, for me, it is the perfect hobby. It combines my love of photography, my love of recording tiny details and having each ‘memory’ captured and my need to try and be artistic.
I am proud to call myself a scrapbooker and have been proud to do so for the past 8 years. I buy my acid free paper, my acid free scrapbook albums, my acid free glues and embellishment. I am a scrapbooker. I know what acid does. I avoid it when I am scrapping.
Why then have I made such errors of judgement?
I have ruined so many of my photos needlessly and thoughtlessly and I want to urge you all to resist the mistakes I have made. I HOPE I am preaching to the converted really and that you have shown way more common sense than I clearly have. Plus, many of you will be younger than me and so even if you have made the same errors they might not be quite so bad.
For the past couple of weeks I have been working to try and save as many of my old photos as possible. I am from an era where photos were carefully mounted in the sticky photo albums with very non-acid free glue and covered with totally non-acid free plastic film. They were, in effect, being put in a storage system designed to destroy them very quickly. And destroy them they did.
My childhood pictures are, by and large, OK as they were stored in their original photo packets. That is apart from the ones that I chose as ‘ the best ones’ when I was in my 20s and put in brand new shiny corrosive sticky albums. I pretty much ruined those. My teen photos from the 70’s and 80’s are pretty much ruined. They have discoloured, have stuck rigidly to the backing to the extent many cannot be removed and, when I do get them out, they are coated with the glue on the back and curled beyond belief.
I even put recent pictures in albums when I should have known better.
All photographs may deteriorate over time. Treasured black and white images take on stains and spotting. Color prints yellow and crack with age. Old Polaroid snapshots fade. Home-printed digital images become murky in just a few months. Proper photo storage using acid-free paper and cardboard products can extend the life of precious photos by reducing the deterioration that comes with time.
Archivists recommend storing photos in acid-free paper or plastic sleeves which are laid flat in boxes also made from an acid-free material. If photo albums are preferred, they should be manufactured from materials that are safe for long-term storage of photographs.
Acidity is measured by pH, a scientific formula that ranges from 0 to 14 with a pH of 7 considered neutral. Pure distilled water is considered neutral. A pH of less than 7 is acidic and a pH higher than 7 is called alkaline or basic. For example, battery acid has a pH of 0 and vinegar's pH is 3. On the other side of the scale, milk of magnesia has a pH near 11. Acid-free paper and storage products are treated with a buffering agent to neutralize the processing and naturally occurring acids. The resulting products have a neutral pH ranging from 7 to 9.5 and won't damage photographs during storage. Museums, libraries and universities have successfully used acid-free products to protect historical documents as well as photographic images
I have now removed all of my photos from their albums. I can’t believe we had some 40 albums to sort through. The photos are now all labelled, categorised and in storage boxes until I work my way through all of them.
I am scanning all of them, so I have digital back ups of the images. I am then either scrapping with the originals or, if they are too badly damaged and discoloured and faded, enhancing them in a photo program and then scrapping digital prints of them.
It is possible to restore the pictures, but it is time consuming. I am no expert and if you have really special photos then you may need to get expert help to restore them properly. An expert could get far better results than these.
Below are some examples - and these were by no means the worst examples i have. I have some that are so spoilt there is no repairing them.
and even one from the mid 1980s so discoloured after what is a relatively short time in a bad environment.
So, don’t make the mistake I did. Get your photos OUT of those albums before it is too late.