How to Prepare Your Photos for Long-Term Preservation

At FamilyArc, we employ museum-quality archiving standards to ensure your artifacts will last far into the future. After all, your family memories, whether it’s photos, videos, documents, or other media, are an important piece of the legacy you’ll leave to your loved ones.

In this article, we’ve put together a checklist and some tips to help you prepare your photos for long-term preservation.

What to Include

Begin by compiling all of the different types of photographs you have. This may include:

☐ Loose printed photos
☐ Slides
☐ Polaroids
☐ Scrapbooks
☐ Photo albums
☐ Digital photos (flash drives, CDs, external hard drives, etc.)

Consider the following categories when deciding what to archive:

☐ Traditions (i.e. Grandma baking her famous cookies on Christmas Eve)
☐ Pregnancies
☐ Births
☐ Birthdays
☐ Graduations
☐ Engagements
☐ Weddings
☐ Anniversaries
☐ Vacations
☐ Reunions
☐ Holidays
☐ Firsts (i.e. first little league game, first haircut, etc.)
☐ Places (i.e. the house you grew up in, where you met your spouse, etc.)
☐ Portraits (formal or informal individual/family photos)
☐ Milestones (i.e. moves, award ceremonies, state championships, etc.)

Tip: Resist the urge to keep everything. If you have multiple copies of the same photo, or multiple photos that look very similar, choose one to keep and toss the rest. Remember that you can always use the digital copies stored in your archive to make more prints. Also, if you have hundreds of photos from a single family trip or vacation, you may want to choose a representative sample to archive and discard the others. Be cautious when doing so, however, always keeping in mind your goals for your archive. Photos are some of the most precious items in any family history collection.

How to Organize

Once you’ve compiled your photos, use the categories above to guide your organization. However, as with documents, the best way to choose a naming structure is to make piles of your items and see where the most sensible groupings occur.

Tip: Record everything you know about your photos, including the names of the people pictured, as well as the date and place where the picture was taken. The more information you include, the easier it will be to organize and display your photos on your archive. Do not write on photos directly with normal writing utensils, as these can damage your items. Instead, you can use an archival pencil to number your photos on the back bottom corner, and include a separate typed list with relevant information and captions for each one.

Has capturing your family history been a challenge?

Tip: Do not ship glass with your photos. Carefully remove photos from frames before packaging them for shipment. If you are concerned about damaging a photo, inquire about our on-premise digitizing services to help you preserve especially old or delicate photos.

Want more tips on how to prepare your artifacts for long-term preservation—including documents, videos, and other physical items?

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