More on Photo and Digital Preservation

Last week, I addressed ways to store physical photos and in January I wrote a bit about preserving digital files. Three Preservation Week webinars provided additional information on these topics I thought I’d share.  The webinars were sponsored by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association.  Originally, I planned for this to be a bonus post for Friday instead of a weekly feature, but the content is feature worthy.  Plus, I had to wait in order to include all the webinar links!

From “The Preservation of Family Photographs” Webinar (4/23/13):

Presented by Debra Hess Norris, Chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware; Link to full recording.

This webinar concurred with much of what I wrote last week about preserving physical photos.  However, she brought up one storage method I failed too mention: picture frames.  Because the outer layer of photographs contain chemicals or gelatin (pending the type of the photograph), if they become too hot or humid, the photo could be come stuck to the frame’s glass.  To avoid this, Norris recommends always using photo mattes when framing photos.

She also recommended some books meant for all readers, not just information professionals.  These are (linked to WorldCat):

See the blackened edges, scrapes, and the odd silvery sheen? These problems could be prevented under the right conditions. Learn more from Graphic Atlas or the "Family Photo" webinar. "Confederate signal tower at Ft. McAllister, Georgia. by Sam A. Cooley" from the Library of Congress via American Memory.

See the blackened edges, scrapes, and the odd silvery sheen? These problems could be prevented under the right conditions. Learn more from Graphic Atlas or the “Family Photo” webinar. “Confederate signal tower at Ft. McAllister, Georgia. by Sam A. Cooley” from the Library of Congress via American Memory.

Norris also covered a great deal about the history and types of photography, including details about the dyes and chemical properties.  If you are interested in this, please watch the webinar recording or check out the recommended website Graphic Atlas (ran by the Image Permanence Institute).  The recording provides a great overview and the website offers a more in-depth viewpoint.  In short form, in common with all photo types, is that there are three layers to a photograph.  The back-most layer is the support (paper in the modern era).  The middle layer is the image.  The top layer is a binder to ensure the image is stable and protected.  In each type of photograph, the composition is different.

She also reminded viewers to keep photos in cool, dry, dark places when not in use; to wear gloves when handling negatives and slides; and that it is okay to expose even the oldest photos to the scanner one or twice.

From the “Personal Digital Archiving” Webinar (4/24/13):

Presented by Mike Ashenfelder from the Library of Congress; Link to full recording.

Ashenfelder focused on preserving computer files and digital photos.  He stressed the importance of backing up all digital files to multiple places and recommends using at least two different types of storage mediums (flash drive, external hard drive, CD-ROM, or server) plus cloud storage.  Ashenfelder also reminded viewers to move the collection of files to a new storage medium every 5-7 years to prevent file corruption and media obsolescence.

Here’s a list of some of his other suggestions:

  • File names should be unique and easily understood.  For example for a photo from vacation, don’t leave it the camera default of IMG_1234.jpeg.  Instead rename it something like 2013vacation1.jpeg.
    • To lean how to do this in bulk, Google search “batch rename files <operating system type>.
  • For estate planning purposes, let loved ones know where important digital files are stored and provide any needed passwords.
  • While TIFFs are the preferred file type in archives, digital cameras almost excursively use JPEGs.  Thus Ashenfelder recommends using JPEG as the default storage format for both new photos and scanned images.
  • Remember, social media compresses (shrinks and reduces color) of images and strips their metadata.  Because the previous quality can never be regained, these should never be used as back up files.
  • When scanning, 4″ by 6″, 5″ by 7″, and 8″ by 10″ images, select 300 dpi.  The exception is that if you plan to print a copy larger than the original, use a higher DPI.
  • When scanning smaller photos, such as wallet sized, use 1800 dpi [or since many home printers can’t scan this high, the highest setting] when scanning.
  • Realize not everything can be saved and prioritize.
  • Save important Word files as PDFs for long term storage because the format is more stable and is easier to archive.
  • Most importantly, spot test some backed up files to ensure the data transferred successfully!

From the “Archives 101:  Dealing with Suppliers of Archival Products” Webinar (4/25/13):

Presented by Peter Verheyen, Librarian at Syracuse University and private conservator; Link to full recording.

This webinar targeted information professionals.  I would highly recommend watching the recording if you work in an archive, record center, or library preservation department as Verheyen provides many tips for purchasing supplies, including how to make some supplies multitask.  Despite that, here are some tips that would be useful for both professionals and non-professionals:

  • Verheyen reminded viewers that quality of the artifact directly effects longevity; store in cool, dry, dark environments in acid-free housing and limit handling.
  • He described when to use buffered versus unbuffered acid-free material:
    • Buffered (pH 8-9) is best to use for storing paper items.
    • Unbuffered (pH neutral [7]) is best for storing photographs and textiles.
    • Also, acid-free refers to at the time it was manufactured.  The pH will change when it comes in contact with archived items. [As I learned in grad school, the material absorbs some of the item’s acid, making it stabler in the long-term.]
  • Like my in my post last week, he recommends using photo corners for displaying items instead of tape.  Should tape be necessary, he says to use Filmoplast because it has a water-based, easily removable, buffered adhesive.
  • NEVER LAMINATE ANYTHING!  The heat and adhesive used cause irreversible harm to photos and documents.  And it’s very hard, if not impossible, to remove.

I’ll be glad to answer any questions I can about these presentations, but I’d recommend watching the recordings to gain all the information.  I just highlighted the most crucial points.


6 thoughts on “More on Photo and Digital Preservation

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