My Favorite Place to Store My Photographs Forever

by Curtis Bisel
updated: May 17, 2017
Curtis Bisel
May 17, 2017

I am really excited to share this information with you. Where I discovered to store all of my paper photographs wasn’t what I had in mind when I went looking for a place. But when I found it, I instantly knew it was going to be my favorite place to store them forever.

In an earlier post, I described how long it took me to get started scanning and organizing my family’s photo collection. Part of the intimidation was the sheer number of photos, and some of it was simply a problem with geography.

But once I really got into the entire process of organizing, scanning and then more organizing, another problem revealed itself, and that was where do I put these photographs after I scan them?

One of my Family's "Magnetic" Style of Photo Albums - Falling Apart!
Here’s one of my family’s “Magnetic” styled photo albums that has almost completely fallen apart from years of love and abuse!

Our collection has been made up of a variety of storage methods through the years. For example we have lots of boxes with loose prints and slides, large albums with the “magnetic” sticky pages, smaller flip-through “Brag Books” (remember those?) a good amount of picture frames full of assorted-sized prints, and many plastic carousels of slides that were used once upon a time when projection was a big deal.

A lot of these “containers” are way too old and decrepit to even consider reusing. One of our “magnetic” albums is so brittle, the pages have ripped apart from the spine! Photos are just falling out from behind the plastic sheet.

And well, many of the storage items shouldn’t have even have been used for the long haul in the first place. My family has been extremely lucky so far. I doubt that shopping bag from Disney World would have protected those photographs on my parents’ closet floor from 5 inches of standing water if there had been a flood. (I’m just sayin’)

So even if I wasn’t going to scan any of them into my computer, it’s obvious to me all of our photos really need a new and safer home. So the search was on.

I originally went looking for really nice photo albums. I’m not sure what kind of new technology in an album I expected to find. All I knew was I wanted to get as far away from the “magnetic” page technology of ages past as I could.

And another decision I made was that if I was going to invest money in new storage, I wanted to find something that would last a long long time plus wouldn’t do any damage itself to the photographs. Especially after seeing the gooey residue left behind on some of the prints I had managed to free from those “magnetic” pages.

The problem with almost all of the photo albums I found was they only accommodated holding newer sized photographs. We do have some 4×6 prints, ones taken in the 1990’s for example, but a good portion of our collection is from the 1960’s and 1970’s when sizes like 3.5″ x 3.5″ and 4″x4.5″ were popular. And don’t forget about those Polaroids!

When you shop in the right places, you will find storage items that are “Archival Safe.” This is definitely a good thing because they are made with materials that can safely be used for preservation purposes. This means they aren’t made with a chemical that could accelerate the breaking down or deterioration of your photographs during storage.

Enter Crystal Clear Polypropylene Pages

So imagine my happiness when I discovered something several years ago that was archival quality, better, and more functional than standard photo albums. Several companies make these PVC-free plastic photo pages using a safe material called Polypropylene. They’re surprisingly clear and lightweight, and are meant to hold photos on both sides. And they’re actually fairly affordable when you buy them in bulk.

(A couple links below are to products that will earn me a very small commission if you order through them. Please know I would never recommend a product I didn’t have an exceptional experience with or from a company I didn’t love and trust.)

The brand I ended up investing in was the Museum Quality Vue-All ® Archival Photo Savers. I wanted to go with a single brand so I could keep a level of consistency across all of my albums. So this brand became my top pick because they came in the largest variety of photo sizes and layout styles.

Museum Quality Vue-all Photo Savers Archival Pages Packages
The three primary packages of Archival Photo Savers I use from Vue-All

Additionally, for those who are convinced Americans no longer make anything, you will not only be surprised but also happy to learn these photo pages are made right here in the U.S. of A. Well the pages are – the packaging they come in might still be manufactured in China. 😛 Just kidding!

Additionally what I love about these photo pages is:

  1. Use with Binders – they fit in almost any 3-ring (notebook) binder you can find. Tired of that blue binder, go buy one with a leopard print. Whatever makes you happy. The widest ones will work the best though.
  2. Thin – It might be hard to tell from the pictures, but they aren’t stiff. They kind of feel like the nice thicker Ziplock bags.
  3. Easy to Organize – A lot of photo albums have “locked in” pages. With these you can insert pages here and there and easily move photos around to change their order.
  4. Accessible – Compared to storing them in archival cardboard boxes, it’s so much more fun and convenient to be able to flip through a nice binder with pages than it is to thumb through stacks of prints and slides tucked away tightly in a box.

So far, I am primarily using the following 3 packs:

Item #6022 – Holds 8 – 3.5″x5″ prints (100 pages per pack) – Dimensions: 9-1/4″ x 10-15/16″
Item #6037 – Holds 12 – 3.5″x3.5″ prints (100 pages per pack) – Dimensions: 9-1/4″ x 11-5/8″
Item #6049 – Holds 10 – 3.5″x5″ prints (100 pages per pack) – Dimensions: 9-15/16″ x 11-1/4″

Notice I bought them in small bulk – packs of 100 pages. But you can also find them in packages with only 25 pages when you are on a budget or have a smaller amount of photos in a particular size or needed layout.

And I’m sure many of you will also be relieved to know they also come in a variety of styles for our negatives and slides.

Vue-All Photo Savers Archival Pages - Family Photos Stack
Some photos from our collection in the #6037 3.5″x3.5″ Vue-All Photo Savers

Note: Please be careful and learn from a mistake I made if and when you decide to order photo pages. I was so excited when I found this amazing new way of storing photos (well at least they were new to me at the time!) that I didn’t notice the varying dimensions of each page. I assumed each page style was the same size as another, but in fact some of them come in slightly different sizes. What this really means is if you ever combine pages from multiple sets, even though they all fit the same way in the 3-ring binding contraption, they may not all line up perfectly along the outer edges. Just a friendly heads up from one person with undiagnosed OCD to another. 😉

And like I was saying earlier, Vue-All isn’t the only company making these archival pages. They just happen to be the only ones I have used so far. I look forward to trying out some others for example by Archival Methods. You might want to check these out before you take the plunge.

So what do you think? Have you tried any of these out before? Please let me know in the comments below.

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