Learn how to preserve your family's heirloom photographs. Organize and preserve your photographs for future generations!

Preserving Your Family’s Historic Photographs

Welcome to Andi Willis of Good Life Organizing as guest blogger today!  I know you will enjoy her insight into preserving our family’s historic photographs.
This post contain affiliate links.  Read my full disclosure policy here.

From Grandma’s meticulously maintained photo albums to tin types of long gone relatives to snapshots of your parents, photographs capture the visual history of your family. To preserve these precious memories, it is important to safeguard your pictures in a few easy steps.

It’s All About Location

One of the most important factors when it comes to preserving your photographs is where you store them. It is very important not to keep any photographs in attics, basements, garages or storage units. The extreme changes in temperature and humidity found in these areas will wreak havoc on your pictures. Keep all printed pictures in a climate controlled area of your home such as a closet or a spare room. It’s also vital to keep your photos away from prolonged exposure to light, especially direct sunlight, which can cause the pictures to fade.

Keeping your loose photos in regular file folders, manilla envelopes, shoeboxes or plastic bins is also not ideal. Organize and store you photos in acid-free folders and boxes which are free of chemicals that can damage your photos. Vendors such as Kolo and Archival Methods have a wide variety of storage solutions for printed photos, slides and negatives. However, do not store you photos with other old papers such as news clippings and documents as these kinds of papers may also release harmful chemicals that will harm your pictures.

Preserving Your Family's Historic Photographs

Treat Them With Care

How you handle your pictures is also important. Be sure that your work area is clean and dry. Wash your hands before dealing with photos and wear 100% cotton gloves to keep oils from your hands from getting on the pictures. Do not use paperclips, rubber bands or other fasteners on your photos. Be sure to keep food and drink well away from your pictures.

Preserving Your Family's Historic Photographs

Back Up Your Pictures

No one wants to think about a natural disaster like a tornado or a man-made disaster such as an overflowing water heater destroying their precious family photos, but it happens. The best way you can guarantee that your family’s pictures last for a long time is to digitize them through scanning.

You can hire someone to scan your photos or you can undertake the project yourself. If you decide to scan your pictures yourself, it pays to invest in a good photo scanner, not just the scanner on your 4-in-1 printer. A quality flat-bed scanner like the Epson V550 is a good starter scanner that will also you to digitize printed photos, slides and negatives. The Flip-Pal is a great small, portable scanner that works well for scanning loose photos as well as those still in albums. If your photos or albums are fragile, you can digitize them by taking a high quality digital photo.

Once you digitize your photos it is critical that you backup your digital files. The 3-2-1 backup method is a great baseline and means having 3 backup copies of all important digital files in at least 2 formats (external hard drive and cloud or cloud and archival CDs) with at least one copy offsite (not located at your home).

If organizing and preserving your family’s photographs seems too overwhelming or time consuming for you, contact a Personal Photo Organizer. Find one near you through the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.


About Andi Willis


Andi Willis is a Professional Organizer, Certified Personal Photo Organizer, author and video host. Passionate about helping people organize their homes and preserve their precious photos, Andi can be found at GoodLifePhotoSolutions.


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  • Michelle Taggart

    All good reminders. I have wondered what to do with photos that are in the old photo albums. I hate to remove them from the albums and yet I know that they do not provide ideal conditions for preservation.

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