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Photographs and Slides

Improve the odds – make duplicates of important images. Cool, dry, and dark are the best conditions for preserving photos, negatives, and slides.


  • Display copies of photographs, not originals, whenever possible and store the originals separately. Always make copies of damaged photos.
  • Protect photographs behind glass or acrylic that filters ultraviolet light, such as appropriate kinds of Plexiglas ©.
  • Frame photographic prints with acid-free stable materials. Use rag-board mats that pass the photographic activity test (PAT). This applies to digital prints as well as to traditional prints. The mats should be un-buffered for color photos and buffered for black and white.
  • Use acid-free, not “magnetic” or self-adhesive, photo albums.
  • Protect color transparencies, slides, and negatives in stable plastic pages. Polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene are all suitable.


  • Store photos and negatives in envelopes or folders made of stable plastic or acid-free paper. Place the envelopes in acid-free boxes and don’t pack them too tightly.
  • Avoid storing photos in contact with brown kraft paper, glassine envelopes, mat board with high lignin content, rubber cement, or glue.
  • Store 35-mm color film slides, in cardboard or plastic mounts, either in custom size metal or acid-free boxes or in custom size stable plastic sleeves. Because the slides are so small, they can easily be shifted or lost in larger sleeves and containers.


  • Handle photographs, negatives, and slides only by the edges and avoid touching the image. Wearing cotton gloves is a good idea.
  • Try to label photographs on the backs of frames or on album page or sleeve. If necessary, use a soft, No. 2 pencil to write lightly on the back of the photograph itself.
  • Keep photos, negatives and slides out of reach of pests.