Are Your Photos At Risk In Your Own Home?
Updated: Aug 14, 2018
Personally valuable photo and family heritage collections may be at risk even in your own home. Although hard to imagine, photos can be in danger for a variety of reasons ranging from the obvious (home fires) to the not so obvious (the actual storage materials and where your photos are physically located).
Are Your Photos At Risk?
Consider if your photos are at risk from any of the following:
Fire or Natural Disasters
This is likely the biggest risk many people would face. How quickly could you gather your valuable photos and documents if you had to evacuate due to a house fire, a wildfire, a hurricane, or a tornado? Do you live in an area that experiences floods or earthquakes?
Over time the conditions in our homes could detrimentally affect photographic and paper materials. Is your home too damp or too dry? Do you have framed photos in direct sunlight? Are albums stored in front of heater exchanges?
Do you have boxes of photos or albums that you store in the basement, garage, attic or even in an offsite storage unit? These items are at risk from extreme temperature fluctuations and unstable environments that again may be too damp or too dry. While it is tempting to store bulky boxes of photos and albums where we have the space, consider how devastating it would be if your memories were damaged from a flooded basement, or you opened a box stored in the attic to find your memories covered in mouse droppings.
Even the boxes, folders and albums we store our photos in can pose risks. Materials that are not acid- or lignin-free or have not been proven to be photo-safe can cause damage to paper, photographs and negatives. Sticky magnetic albums will leech acid onto prints via the glue-covered pages. Vinyl binders and envelopes from the processing lab will outgas harmful chemicals. Album pages can become brittle over time and crumble.
Digital Risk Factors
Digital images are at risk too for many reasons. Many people simply have so many digital images they cannot enjoy their photos or find photos when they need them. External hard drives full of photos and video can fail, be broken or stolen. Lost or forgotten passwords to online photo storage vendors result in forgotten and orphaned photos.
Ultimately, the risks posed to our precious family photos and documents could be greatly mitigated by some awareness of what our collections encompass and where we choose to keep them. Personal archivists and photo organizers are knowledgeable guides for protecting your photos from common risks and can help you identify specific risks in your home.
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We also invite you to visit our sister blog The Photo Organizers for more tips and in-depth knowledge from some of the top photo organizing industry professionals. To find a photo organizer near you, visit the Association of Personal Photo Organizers.
Meaghan Kahlo, Personal Archivist and Certified Personal Photo Organizer, began her professional life with graduate work in museum studies focused on collections management. Her enthusiasm for photography and historical preservation combined with a passion to organize and create order are the driving forces behind her business, Ephemera Photo Organizing. Meaghan helps clients transform the ephemeral nature of digital and printed images into meaningful photo solutions for today and for generations to come tomorrow.