View Full Version : Long Term "Archival" Storage of Negatives & Transparencies

14-Jun-2019, 06:08
When my father passed away, I was blessed to inherit all his image files. Literally several thousands 4x5 and 120 negatives and transparencies from over 50 years as a professional photographer. While much of his commercial work (aerials & architecture) provide a historic glimpse into our region, it is the hundreds of family negatives and transparencies that are treasures to me. Most of these negatives and transparencies have been stored, in some cases for over 60 years, in paper sleeves. I was looking at some of his Anscochrome 6x6 transparencies from 1956 and they look to be in terrific shape. I do notice that most of the transparencies and negatives are "dirty" with tiny flecks of "stuff" that mostly can be brush/blown off, but some will require additional cleaning.

I now have the joyous task of cleaning, cataloging, and storing these negatives and transparencies. My goal is to create a repository of family history on film for future generations to access and print. Accordingly, I very much want to get this right. I'm prepared to invest the time and money to do this correctly, but would like some suggestions and recommendations on how best to achieve my goal. For my own fine art photography, I store my 4x5 and 120 negatives in PrintFile polyethylene pages and then in the PrintFile Safe-T-Binders. This arrangement appears to have worked well for the past few years, but I want to have a level of certainty that I'm good for the long haul.

Your suggestions and recommendations are sincerely appreciated.

Jeff Welker

peter schrager
14-Jun-2019, 06:40
contact Lodima Archival Supplies and speak with Paula

Richard Wasserman
14-Jun-2019, 06:41
I store 120 negatives much like you do. I keep my 4x5 negatives in polyethelyne sleeves inside paper envelopes. The envelopes then are stored inside an archival box. I get my supplies from Archival Methods, but there are other sources.




I applaud you undertaking this herculean task. I think it will be greatly appreciated now and in the future. Good luck!

Oren Grad
14-Jun-2019, 06:45
Library of Congress - Care, Handling and Storage of Photographs (https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/photo.html)

Paul Ron
14-Jun-2019, 09:37
i think all this archival stuff has become a huge industry. acid free n special controlled environment cases etc.

i have been storing all my work in glassines which were put in shoe boxes, stored in my garage for well over 50 years that are still in perfect shape. im sure nyc has a much milder for giving humidity n temperature environment as well as having a rather cool garge may have some bearing on my success.

one note though... the negatives (120) in plastic sleeves arent as nice as the glassines, which have turned yellow n got a bit crispy, but held up to the test. the glassines served me much better. seems the plastic has adheared to some of the negatives causing some damage.

but im sure with climate differences n storage techniques, we will hear many variations of success with certain products over others. perhaps comparing your situation, you will find a suitable solution.

the ultimate test is time!

good luck with that enormously tedious task.

Jim Jones
14-Jun-2019, 10:40
I acquired many negatives from the 1930s that have probably been stored in glassines since then, and show no deterioration. This should not be taken as proof that all glassine negative files are that good.

Jim Noel
14-Jun-2019, 14:42
I acquired many negatives from the 1930s that have probably been stored in glassines since then, and show no deterioration. This should not be taken as proof that all glassine negative files are that good.

I have had the same experience. Some of mine which I transferred to Unicolor "Archival" plastic sleeves, the sleeves have disintegrated into small pieces but the images are not harmed.

Doremus Scudder
14-Jun-2019, 18:07
I use PrintFile pages and binders. I would imagine they would work for your purposes just fine.



Drew Wiley
14-Jun-2019, 21:46
There are specialty suppliers like Archival Methods that carry a good selection of options. In general you want cool dry conditions with decent unpolluted air circulation. Even inert plastics can sometimes cause ferrotyping under pressure, or greater risk of mold if humid. I prefer acid-free paper sleeves for color film, but not the buffered style. No - no shoeboxes or glassine. I've seen entire collections ruined that way, but it all depends on the exact photographic medium and storage conditions. I'm not saying that glassine is always bad, but that during the era it was widely used, people just didn't think about this topic. One man's luck can be another's nightmare. Best to do your homework. There is plenty of serious information available from art conservation resources. I'd take some of the responses here with a grain of salt. I've had deal with all kind of photo media going back to the 1840's, either to frame it or make restoration copies for reprinting. This included a number of old chrome films too, with various damage issues. I learned a lot from seeing a variety of past mistakes. There is a bit of marketing bunk out there abusing the term "archival", but it's the exception, not the rule. The bigger problem is that certain products good for one kind of medium are bad for another.

15-Jun-2019, 03:28
I am sure that there will be similar makers in the USA but FWIW here is the UK manufacturer/supplier which I use - https://www.secol.co.uk. They supply many museums here and offer a wide range of storage solutions. The storage medium (Polyester in this case) is one thing, but the storage conditions are of huge importance too - cool, dark and dry. I have seen Kodachromes from the 1960s rendered useless despite being in Polyester simply because they were stored in warm and humid conditions in ordinary (far from light tight) cabinets - some transparencies do seem to survive despite poor storage though - so it can be hit and miss if you don't get everything right. Film emulsions can be a great habitat for things like fungus, so denying suitable conditions to such moulds is essential for real archival storage of photographs.

15-Jun-2019, 08:43
My source of archival materials: http://www.conservationresources.com/

My method is the 4-fold envelopes, http://www.conservationresources.com/Main/section_5/section5_05.htm -- data written on the envelopes.

Stored in boxes, http://www.conservationresources.com/Main/section_5/section5_12.htm

But as mentioned before, the most important part is the organization and record-keeping. Otherwise, the collection is not a true collection and more likely to be tossed someday.

Tin Can
15-Jun-2019, 09:08
Great link Vaughn

Ordering 5X7

Thank you

15-Jun-2019, 09:58
Great link Vaughn Ordering 5X7 Thank you
You're welcome -- it has been a few years since I ordered from them and I have fallen behind in my storage needs and will be making another order soon. I have 8x10 and 5x7 negatives in the 4-fold envelopes piled all over the place -- I need to get them in boxes! And far too many Print File plastic sleeves filled with 2 1/4 negs in piles -- and I just developed 4 more rolls last night that I will sleeve up this morning to add to the stack.

Just made out a new Will (still need to get it signed by a couple of witnesses) so all this sh*t (cameras, negs, prints) will be semi-directed somewhere without the State getting too involved. Got to get it all better organized in case I do drop dead soon...ya never know. I should probably get that Will signed before I go off backpacking next week. Of course, once I'm dead I won't care about my life's work, but I might as well make it easier for the boys.

Two images of the mess behind me right now. Got to get the some of the mess off the light table to I can cut and sleeve the 4 rolls of 120! Disgusting mess! My print storage and mat-cutting room is as bad!

Tin Can
15-Jun-2019, 10:23
I made a will 2 years ago when I thought I was a goner.

My step daughter gets everything or her Draft age sons.

They were just here. She has done well.

I'm still a goner...:)

18-Jun-2019, 05:49
Thank you all for your comments and recommendations. Most helpful.