Technical Leaflet #9: Photographic Preservation: Basic Methods of Safeguarding Your Collections

By Peter Mustardo and Nora Kennedy

The Technical Leaflet Series “is intended to provide brief, practical information about selected archival topics suitable especially for beginners in the profession. “ The Technical Leaflets continue to serve as introductions for new archivists, archivists working with new formats, and solid principles on many topics.

Analog photograph formats present a variety of challenges to archivists: housing and storage, handling, identifying deterioration, and understanding the physical construction and chemical composition of a variety of processes. This leaflet provides a brief introduction to a complex chemical process that has undergone rapid change and innovation during its relatively short life. The simple yet solid advice is applicable for most organic archival material, but is presented with specifics on how environmental hazards affect the unique chemical composition and physical structures of photographs. Topics include improper storage environments, poor quality housing, inappropriate handling, biological attacks from pests and mold, processing faults, inherent flaws, and exposure to light.

These practical measures are still in use; updating in this leaflet would largely focus on including a section on digitization of photographic materials and the inclusion of new funding resources available for photograph preservation.

Anyone with a gap in their archival repertoire on photographic materials would be well served to include this basic introduction in their early reading.

A digitized version of this Technical Leaflet can be found at


–Maureen Cech, Technical Leaflets Editor

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