Many historical photographs, documents, drawings, maps, and more are carefully preserved by today’s conservation companies, and these old items may have historic, academic, or sentimental value. Many of them have more than one type of value, in fact, and no one wants them to be lost or destroyed. The good news is that old documents, photos, and more can be preserved in easily assembled 3-ring binder pages, aluminum photo frames, custom cut mats, and more. These easily assembled storage items can keep an old document or photo safe and protect it from degradation, and these easily assembled photo albums or frames allow a person to view the photos while keeping them safe from harmful effects. Photo envelopes and metal picture frame kits may help with this, and any conservation company is bound to have these easily assembled materials to keep old items in good condition. What are some hazards that these old photos and documents may face, and how can a professional or even a homeowner make the most of easily assembled binders or frames?
Hazards to Old Documents and Photos
The simple truth is that old photos, documents, maps, and more are fragile, and some of them have been around for centuries. Naturally, these items will break down and degrade over time, and some are already in poor condition. Paper is organic and may break down, and the same is true of parchment and similar materials. Photographs don’t date back further than the late 1830s or so, but even then, some old photos have suffered exposure over time and have become damaged. Old photos can be preserved, but not so easily duplicated.
Humidity and temperature are two particular hazards for these old documents and photos. If an environment’s humidity is too high, indoors or outdoors, this may result in mold growth that damages old paper or photos and degrades them over time. By contrast, very high humidity may dry out a document or photo and make it brittle, and more likely to fall apart even if it is handled gently. Overall, the relative humidity of a storage environment should be below 65% to prevent mold growth, but over 15% so that old documents and photos don’t dry out and become brittle. The bad news is that some historic documents or photos have indeed been stored in such poor conditions before they were given to a conservation team, simply due to neglect or a lack of awareness of these hazards. In decades or centuries past, such climate control wasn’t even possible, so old documents suffered from high or low humidity. It’s likely that at the time, no one was interested in preserving those documents so carefully anyway.
Temperature and sunlight should also be considered when it comes to historic photograph and document preservation efforts. A lower temperature is better for preserving these old items, since cooler temperatures tend to slow down chemical decay rates and may also reduce insect activity. Various insects may chew on these old photos and documents, ruining them. Instead, the temperature should be kept below 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and of course the humidity should be controlled too. What is more, keeping these items away from sunlight can help, since UV rays may wash out and damage photos over time and degrade paper as well. Direct sunlight is a hazard, so these documents are kept indoors and in boxes, easily assembled photo binders, and more.
Preservation and Sharing
Old photos can be put into photo album binders to keep them protected from humidity and insects alike, and allow a professional to browse and view them without damaging them. Some photos may be placed into frames for further protection, and these may include protective cardboard backing and other sealing measures to keep the photo insulated from harmful exposure. This can keep a photo in fine condition for a long time and extend its lifespan. Many experts who have these old photos and documents may digitally scan them to preserve them, and have digital backups. This is useful in case the real copies are lost in a fire or flood or other disaster, so the images and text on them are not permanently lost. Scholars and college students can make good use of these digital copies.
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