Preserve Your Items

There are five basic steps you can take to increase the life of your precious photographs and documents. These suggestions apply both to your treasured items at home and at the workplace. *

Do Something

  • ​Even small steps, like moving a box from the basement to a closet will make a big difference in the life of your treasures.
  • Don't be a perfectionist — do what you can right now. It may not be the perfect solution but it is still better than doing nothing. 

Consider the Environment

  • ​Extreme temperatures and relative humidity, light, pests, mold and water damage all negatively impact your treasures.
  • Do not store items in the attic or basement — temperatures in these areas can fluctuate widely, they are often damp and have the greatest risk of water damage due to leaks or flooding.
  • DO store them in climate-controlled areas — like a dark closet, under a bed or in filing cabinets.
  • Regularly check storage areas for evidence of mold and pests.

Handle with Care

  • Minimize handling and treat with care.
  • Always make sure your hands are clean and free of lotions.


  • Store treasures in acid-free boxes, folders or polyester sleeves to protect them from dust, light and rough handling.
  • L.O.C.K.S.S — Lots Of Copies Keep Stuff Safe! Make digital or hard copies.
  • Store the copies in different geographical areas. For example: Store one at home and one at the office, or distribute copies among family members.
  • Don't display the original. Keep it safely stored — display a good copy. 
  • If you use plastic containers, look for polyethylene or polypropylene. Avoid PVC (new shower curtain smell).
  • Ideally, paper boxes, folders and envelopes should be acid and lignin free.


  • ​If future generations don't know what it is, they are less likely to appreciate its value!
  • Use a regular soft leaded pencil or photo marketing pencil to write on the back of photographs (not a pen or marker!).
  • Identify people, places and dates in detail — instead of "Mom", write her full name, including her maiden name.
*These tips come from the American Library Association:

Resources for Supplies:

  • Gaylord Archival Solutions: A great source for boxes, folders, plastic sleeves, etc. 
  • Local paper and office supply stores: The key words to look for are acid-free, lignin-free (for paper and cardboard), and Mylar, polyethylene, polypropylene (for plastic sleeves and boxes).

For More Information: