Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sorting Saturday - Photo Album Archiving & Digital Sorting - Part 3

The last 2 Saturdays, I've written about my mother's family photo album and the process I've gone through to digitize and preserve it.  You can read about it here and here.  Today I'm going to explain how I handled the physical preservation part.

This was the really hard part for me because frankly, I wanted to take the album apart and get those pictures off of those black acidic album pages and away from the nasty glue.  In the end, I decided not to attempt removing the photos with floss or a flat spatula type tool as had been suggested by several people.  The pictures were glued on incredibly well and I was afraid of damaging the photos.

What I did was place one or two sheets of buffered lightweight paper between each album page to protect the pictures from acid migration as much as possible.  This didn't add too much volume to the album since the buffered pages are fairly thin.  The reason I added two in some cases was because I had sketches of many of the pages with notes that Mom had made identifying the pictures.  I put those sketches between the two pieces of buffered paper to prevent any potential damages to the photos.

Next, I put the album in a drop front, archival box that had passed P.A.T. with a copy of the inventory and provenance I wrote about last week, labeled the box and put it away in the dark, temperature controlled closet that I call my archive.  I am still hoping that eventually I can figure out a way to get those pictures out of that album. In the meantime, at least I can rest a little easier knowing the album is in a much better situation than before starting this project.

There were several resources that helped me with this project.  Here is a list of the ones that I found the most helpful.  I hope you will find them helpful too.

The Practical Archivist
Sturdevant, Katherine Scott. Organizing & Preserving Your Heirloom Documents. Cincinati: Betterway Books, 2002.
Taylor, Maureen A. Preserving Your Family Photographs. Cincinati: Betterway Books, 2001.

To read the other installations in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

© 2010, copyright Michelle Goodrum


  1. great info...I'm in the process of digitizing all of my photos. I have done the past 46 years but am now working on my mom's photos. They are glued in photo albums with the black pages. I've tried to get them 'unglued' with no success. I'll give the 'buffered' paper a try for helping to preserve I HATE to sound dumb but what exactly is 'buffered' paper?

  2. Thanks Michelle,
    I am scanning my mother's photo albums and wondering what to do about the sad condition they are in. Some were taped, and now have the sticky yellow residue on the corners...some are just loose in the album, and sliding around. Wish I had started on this years ago. My plans are to take them out of the albums and put into storage boxes. Hope I can stay with the project and get it done.

  3. Mary - that is a really good question. I am not an archivist but basically unbuffered material has an alkaline substance like calcium carbonate added that will counteract acids that might form due to those black acidic pages we are "buffering" against. I got my buffered paper from Light Impressions.

    The product is called Apollo Paper or Apollo Tissue. I'm sure other suppliers have a similar product.

    Southwest Arkie - Good luck with your project!