Preserving your originals

If you're interested in scrapbooking, then preserving your family's memories is important to you. Before you begin scrapbooking you must learn to preserve your pictures properly. And at the heart of that endeavor are your originals, whether they are negatives, slides, prints, or JPEG files from your digital camera. Without them, it's as though the picture was never taken.

Handling and storing negatives and slides
Let's separate fact from fiction and share some helpful hints.


Your processed color negatives are nothing more than dyes suspended in gelatin, attached to an acetate base. Translation? They're fragile.

Handle negatives by the edges. If they don't come in protective sleeves, you might need to invest in some.

Shoeboxes are for shoes, not long-term preservation of your family's memories. The containers you use to store your valuable negatives and slides should be archival to prevent damage. When you're shopping for scrapbooking supplies, look for these key words:

  • Acid-free—A neutral pH product that is free from the acidic components that cause premature aging.
  • Archival—Implies that a product meets all criteria for the longest permanence possible, such as chemically stable with a neutral pH.
  • Buffered—Describes materials that contain an alkaline-based agent to neutralize exposure to acidic environments. In other uses, the buffer may be acidic, to balance an alkaline environment.
  • Lignin-free—Describes paper that has been processed to remove the acidic parts of wood pulp used in paper manufacturing.
  • Photo safe—A vague term used to imply long-term stability. There are no standards.
  • Polypropylene, polyethylene—Common materials now used for negative sleeves and photo albums. Don't assume that your negatives are returned in these materials. If you're not sure, ask.
Be sure to steer clear of anything that contains PVC (poly vinyl chloride).

Now that your negatives and slides are neatly organized, place them somewhere safe. Your attic is too hot; your basement is too humid. Store them in a cool, dry place.

Protecting prints
There are no hard and fast rules for prints in your scrapbook. You'll have to define your own. Many scrapbookers use permanent adhesives or double-sided photo tabs to mount their prints in their scrapbooks. Others prefer repositional adhesives or photo corners for fear of damaging their photos. The bottom line is that if you've done a good job of preserving the negative, slide, or digital file they were printed from, then the prints can be replaced.

Digital files
The worst place to store your digital images is on your hard drive. What you really need is some high quality CDs and a good organizational system. Learn how to organize your electronic images here.