Preserving Your Resources

In our homes, we have myriad materials connected to our family history, local organizations, institutions, and the like. Preserving and/or donating these materials are important to continue the legacy of the family or institution with which the items are affiliated.

Preservation Tips


Photographs should be stored in a cool, dry location. Ideally, photographs should be stored in albums with acid free paper and polyethylene sleeves or in photo boxes. When photographs are printed, label the backs of the photographs with pencil instead of an ink pen so it does not bleed through the photographic print. The documentation you provide will be essential for family members or repositories sorting through these photographs in the future.

Digital photographs present unique challenges. These photographs are often left on digital cameras, saved on computers, or transferred to CDs. If photographs are transferred to CDs, be sure two copies are made so that a backup copy is always available. Transfer the images saved on CDs to newer formats as they become available. Also, attempt to create a description log of the digital photos that contain the file name of photograph as well as a description of who is in the photo, where the photo was taken, etc.

Textual materials

We often save newspapers, programs, yearbooks, etc. of significant events in our lives. Similar to photographs, these materials should be stored in a cool, dry location preferably flat so as to not damage binding or the paper. Acid free boxes can be purchased for items of particular value.

Film and Audio

Preserving your special home movies, audiotapes, and videos pose special challenges. Not only do you need to ensure that they are stored in the proper environment but you also have to own or have access to the appropriate playback equipment.

Films, videos, and DVDs should be stored in a space that is relatively free of dust and smoke, and is 59-70˚ F with relative humidity of 40-60%. That means you should think twice before storing your old films and videos in basements, attics, or garages where temperature variations can swing wildly. DVDs and videos can also be damaged by the heat and electromagnetic fields from televisions and speakers so it is best in an area at least three feet from your entertainment center.

Playback equipment
Unlike old photographs or diaries, the memories on film, tape, and DVD can only be enjoyed if you have a working player or projector. If you aren’t able to keep your old movie projectors or VHS/Beta/DV players in working condition, consider transferring your home movies and audio recordings to DVD. It is possible to do this yourself, but using a commercial service will give you the best-looking and best-sounding recording transfers. But be aware that both CDs and DVDs also have limited lives and that you may need to create new copies every few years to increase their longevity.

For more information about preserving film and video resources, click here.

Preservation Resources


Library of Congress

Midwest Arts Conservation Center

Northeast Document Conservation Center


Archival Division
P.O. Box 4901
Syracuse, NY 13221-4901

Hollinger Corporation
P.O. Box 8360
Fredericksburg, VA 22404-8360

Light Impressions
P.O. Box 787
Brea, CA 92822-0787

Metal Edge, Inc.
6340 Bandini Ave.
Commerce, CA 90040

University Products
517 Main Street
P.O. Box 101
Holyoke, MA 01041