Dating Old Photographs in Genealogical Research
PHOTOGRAPHS: GENERAL CARE AND TIPS
Photographs are actually fragile and easily damaged. Fading,
stains, distortion, and other physical chages are signs of
If you prefer the dramatic contrast of a black background, be
sure to use an acid-free black paper.
Before selecting storage materials, evaluate your collection.
This may be as simple as sorting by value, uniqueness, year,
or available negative.
Do not store your negatives in the same place as your photo
graphs. If something happens to your album, your negatives will
be available to reprint your treasured family heirloom.
Dirt, dust, and oils from you hands can cause permanent damage.
You should handle prints and negatives along the edges,
preferably while wearing white cotton gloves.
Remove materials such as paper clips, rubber bands, and old
newspaper clippings. Clippings should be photocopied onto
Note any badly damaged items, place them within individual
folders and set them aside for professional conservation treatment.
Do not use pressure sensitive tapes or glues to mend photographs.
It is far better to make a copy of the print and store the damaged
original. If it is necessary to mark a photograph, write lightly
with a soft lead pencil on the back of the image. Do not use ink.
Consult a Photographic Materials Conservator to perform repairs
on broken, torn, or cracked photographs. If a photograph becomes
attached to adjacent materials or glass, great care must be take
to prevent further damage. Seek professional advice immediately.
Lightly soiled photographs or negatives can be carefully cleaned
with a soft brush. From the center of the photograph, proceed
outward to the edges. Do not use cleaners as they will cause
serious and irreversible damage.
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