Help me save history from Shelob
June 16, 2011 7:02 PM   Subscribe

How to preserve photos from scrapbook that was kept in very suboptimal conditions?

While helping to clean out my grandmother's house, we found a beautiful 1930s/40s scrapbook full of neatly labelled military and wedding photos. The photos are in good shape, but the scrapbook is deteriorating and previous books in the house have had spider eggs and silverfish. We just want to preserve/deinfest the pictures for the future. What are our best options?
posted by eleanna to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Acid free!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 8:01 PM on June 16, 2011

Take all the pics out, and scan them.

Then throw them away.
posted by pla at 8:36 PM on June 16, 2011

(Damn, hit the wrong button. To continue that thought...)

I recently inherited something similar, though less organized into a nice neat single-concept scrapbook. The real problem, aside from critters eating them, comes from the impermanence of the medium itself - The colors will fade and the paper will crumble, eventually (talkin' bout decades, not centuries).

If you have one or two favorites, a professional photo restorer can probably preserve the originals for you (for a not inconsiderable price). For everything else, a digital version represents really your only serious long-term preservation option.
posted by pla at 8:41 PM on June 16, 2011

If photos from the 1930s are in good shape, please don't throw them away. Black and White photos from that time period, if they haven't shown signs of deterioration will easily outlast a CD you burn scanned images on. Scan or take digital pictures of the book and whatever information is written within. Then remove the photos carefully - use archival gloves when handling them.

By all means, scan the photos but then store them in an archival folder in a cool, dry and dark place. Light Impressions sells a variety of archival storage products.
posted by JJ86 at 8:57 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the good tips on the photos. How do I debug them safely?
posted by eleanna at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2011

It is not likely that the photographs will need to be debugged. Most insect eggs are visible or can easily be wiped away with a photo-safe cloth. Use a cleaner like PEC-12, Photographic Emulsion Cleaner and non-abrasive photo wipes. Then store them in sealed archival plastic bags.
posted by JJ86 at 12:37 PM on June 17, 2011

do NOT throw them away! JJ86 has good advice, which is what any decent archivist or preservationist will tell you.
posted by kuppajava at 8:34 AM on June 18, 2011

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