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Safe Film Storage

Safe Storage for
Slides and Negatives

Color dyes in film fade with time. With this in mind, there are two things we can do to make our precious images last as long as possible. One is to buy films that are more resistant to fading. The other, which this page is about, is to store them under the right conditions and in the safest materials.

Storage Conditions

The three big words for proper film storage are COOL, DARK, and DRY. Heat, light, and humidity accentuate the aging of film. The lower the temperature, the darker the storage conditions and the drier the air, the longer your processed film will last.

How cool is cool? At a minimum you should try and store you slides and negative where the temperature doesn't exceed the 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. You certainly don't want your photos in a hot, humid attic. Some professional photographers keep their most precious images in low humidity refrigerators. the cooler the temperature, the longer your pictures will last.

As to humidity, keep your photos in a room where the humidity does not get higher than 40%. You can buy a simple humidity indicator for less than $30 at places like Radio Shack. Run a dehumidifier in the room if necessary.

The darker the storage area the better. Some file storage containers are black. A dark closet for your storage containers would help.

NASA stores their priceless chromes from the moon missions at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, at very low humidity and in light tight vaults. The average person can't do that, but we can take the simple steps above to preserve our most valuable images.

Storage Containers

The good words are POLYPROPYLENE, POLYETHYLENE, and POLYSTYRENE. The bad word is POLYVINYLCHLORIDE (PVC). PVC gives off harmful gases that damage film emulsions. The three safe polys are the preferable storage material.

One of the best ways to store slides and negatives is in poly pages with slots for negatives strips and mounted slides. There are several sources for these storage pages. I have been using Light Impressions (800-828-6216) but other companies make archival storage pages. these pages can be put in black binders to put on a shelf, or hung in file cabinets. Just be sure the pages you but are made out of the good polys: POLYPROPYLENE, POLYETHYLENE, or POLYSTYRENE, and not PVC.

If you put your pages in a filing cabinet, metal is preferable to wood since the varnish or other finish on the wood can give of gases that harm the film.

Another option for slides is group storage like the Logan #215 slide storage boxes. You get a metal box with a hinged lid. Inside is a polystyrene insert with slots that hold 20-25 slides each. The whole storage box holds upwards of 700-750 slides depending on the kind of slide mount you use (plastic mounts are thicker than cardboard.

Summary

To safely store your precious images, remember: cool, dark, dry and one of the good polys.

If you already have damaged or faded slides, faded prints, or torn photographs, there is information in the Digital section of this site as to how to save them before it's too late.


January 29, 2002

 

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