I love family photographs!
Looking into the faces of my ancestors in photographs and wandering what they were like, how they lived and what they did on a daily basis is a huge part of my genealogy research journey.
One obstacle that we might face with our photographs are those old black paper photo albums that look like this:
|Price Family Photo Album, Houston County, TN. Archives|
These were extremely popular back in the late 1800's and throughout the 1900's. The photographs were either pasted onto the pages or they were inserted with photo corners that are pasted into the album.
We have several of these types of black paper photo albums in the Houston County, TN. Archives. It is very important that these types of photo albums be handled with care and preserved properly. Any home archivist can preserve their own black paper photo albums. But I always like to say that if you don't feel comfortable doing this preservation project yourself, then I highly recommend you consult with an archivist or conservator in your area to help you.
First and foremost, the black paper in these albums is not archival. They are not acid free and are full of chemicals. The paste that was used to adhere the photographs is also not archival and can be damaging to photographs.
The first thought would be to remove the photographs from these albums. STOP!!
I would caution you about removing the photos from these types of black paper albums. I will say that if the paste has worn away or deteriorated enough that the photos come off the pages easy, then removing the photographs would be okay. Otherwise, DO NOT REMOVE THE PHOTOS! Dismantling a photograph album like this should be your last resort.
We know that the pages are not archival but you could do much more damage to the photographs trying to remove them than the paper is doing.
|Price Family Photograph, Houston County, TN. Archives|
Before you even start, put on GLOVES! When working with photographs, archivist always use gloves to keep the oils and dirt from their hands from getting on the photographs and causing damage. You can use white cotton gloves or regular latex gloves. Do not handle any photographs without wearing gloves.
I would suggest that you first digitize the pages in the photo album. Use a flat bed scanner, digital camera or some other device that allows you to lay the pages flat. Do not use any device that requires you to feed the pages through the device, that could cause damage.
Digitizing and documenting each and every photograph from the album is a great archiving tool. If something were to happen to the album, you will still have the digital images.
Use archival tissue paper and interweave the tissue paper between each and every page. This will create a bearer between the photographs and the adjacent black paper pages.
|Interweaving Tissue Paper, Houston County, TN. Archives|
Place the entire photograph album in an archival box. You will want to purchase a box that fits the album as perfectly as possible. If the album is moving around in the box, crumple up tissue paper and put around the album so it doesn't move. Do not cram the photo album in too small of a box. You want the album to fit snuggly so it doesn't move at all.
Store the box with the album in a cool, dark and dry place. Never store documents, photographs or artifacts in an attic, basement or someplace where it is humid. Always keep out of the sunlight.
If you are fortunate enough to have these wonderful old black paper photo albums with your ancestor's photographs in them, you have a treasure! So, let's preserve and archive that album so that future generations can enjoy those photographs!
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