The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, March 7, 2003


Preserve your family's photographs

Unlike some of the well-preserved family photographs many of us have dating back to the 1800s, our more modern photographs of family gatherings from the mid-1900s will not age as gracefully into the next century. Unfortunately, modern color processes fade and decay rapidly, and many of us have already witnessed the diminished results.

Restoration expert Valarie Kinkade. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

"Color photographs are very unstable," says restoration expert Valarie Kinkade, owner of the Museum and Collector Resource, a private curatorial consulting firm in Concord. She recommends taking these color pictures to the local copy shop and duplicating anything you want to save for your own children and grandchildren. Kinkade adds, "It also solves the problem of who gets the original."

Kinkade proposes obtaining acid-free and lignin-free materials from archival suppliers to protect actual photographs. Light, humidity, and pollution can accelerate the deterioration of photographs. She says using the right "tools help stabilize the environment for the next 200 to 300 years, although it may not guarantee it for the next 1000." Archival materials suited for photographs are tan in color; gray-colored products are only acid-free and suitable for preserving paper.

Useful tips to preserve photographs from Kinkade include:

  • Identify a specific place to work on the project.
  • Divide photographs into piles by format (to facilitate ordering the correct quantity of archival supplies).
  • Use photo corners, not adhesive to attach photographs to pages.
  • Label in light pencil, never in pen that eventually bleeds through a photograph.
  • Avoid storing photographs in acidic shoeboxes and plastic cases that have an odor.
According to Kinkade, the nitrate in negatives dating prior to 1930 often has decayed and can explode into flame. After identifying if a negative does contain nitrate, the owner should have the photograph printed and the negative destroyed.

Kinkade spoke to about forty Carlisle Historical Society members and guests at the February 27 lecture in Union Hall. The next event on the agenda will be a members-only house tour at the Litchfield Parsonage on Lowell Street on April 29 at 7 p.m.

2003 The Carlisle Mosquito