Photos

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Our mission is simple — to help you capture, preserve, organize and enjoy your family's most valuable memories using archival best practices, methodologies equipment and supplies, employed by FA Logo professional archivists and museum experts from around the world.

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What to Keep


Archival photo albums display your
pictures while preserving them
for years to come

You may have hundreds of photographs and other visual materials scattered throughout your home. As part of your family archives project, you will need to determine what you have and what you want to keep.

Start by making a list of the types of photos you have:

  • Photographic prints

  • Slides

  • Negatives

  • Polaroids

  • Glass-plate negatives

  • Ambrotypes

  • Antique photographs (daguerreotypes)

  • Digital photographs on email, stored on memory cards or in cameras, or on your computer(s)

  • Photographs in scrapbooks or albums

Photographs are often the most precious items in any family history collection. Although the quantities can be overwhelming, photos are also small and comparatively easy to store. We don't recommend that you get rid of many photos, but we do have some guidelines for assessing the importance of duplicate prints, negatives and digital copies of photo prints.

Helpful Hint: Although scrapbooks and photo albums are a wonderful way to display photographs, make sure to only use preservation-quality archival materials. That's because the non-archival plastic sleeves found in most store-bought scrapbooks and albums can cause photographs to deteriorate over time. If you have original photographs in scrapbooks, it is a good idea to also keep your negatives or duplicate prints separately for long-term preservation. If you don't have duplicate copies of the photos in your scrapbooks, you may want to make digital scans of your scrapbook pages, just in case. Be sure to scan at full size and at least 300 dpi (dots per inch). See How to Preserve Your Photos for directions on handling older photo albums and scrapbooks.

What NOT to keep
Once you know what types of photos you have, start to look through them to assess the number of duplicate copies in your photo collection. You may have duplicate prints, negatives and digital copies of some photos. For others, you may have just a single print.

For most photographs in good condition (and not in scrapbooks), a single backup copy is plenty. If you have the negative, you don't need a duplicate print copy. If you have a duplicate print copy, you don't need to make a digital copy. In general, negatives tend to last better than print copies. Although it may seem complicated to make new prints from your negatives, negatives are a good choice to keep as a backup for any photo older than about five years.

If any of your photos are deteriorating, making a digital scan is a great way to preserve the way the photos look today, in case one day they are lost. (Color photocopies are another great option, although be sure to make the highest quality copies you can). Keep in mind that small or low resolution scans contain much less detail than original photographs or negatives. Make high resolution (at least 300 dpi) scans at full size for the best record of your photos (see Digital Files for information about preserving digital photographs and scans.)

There may be a few photos in your collection that you don't need to save. For example, if you have one hundred photos from a trip to Hawaii, you could choose a small number of photographs that represent the memories from the vacation and discard the rest. Do this with caution, though, and keep in mind your goals for your archive.


How to Organize Your Photos