My Favorite Place to Store My Photographs Forever

by | Last updated May 17, 2017 | Storing Originals | 6 comments

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. razz 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. wink

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.

Related Posts

What Would You Take?

What Would You Take?

This is a guest post by Trevor Rumsey.

A couple of weeks ago I was reading the November 19th, 2012 issue of People magazine which talked about some of the stories of rescues and survival around the recent superstorm Sandy that hit the Eastern seaboard of the United States.

One article entitled “Found in the Wreckage” (pages 58-59) caught my attention. The article spotlighted eight different families whose homes were destroyed by the storm.

It showed each of them holding the possession that they grabbed as they frantically abandoned their home to escape the storm and save their lives.

As I was reading the article I started to put myself in their place and to think about what would I take if I only had enough space and time to grab one or two things?

As I thought on this it didn’t take long to come up with the answer.

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

Are 99.9% of Your Photographs Just Not Important Enough To Save?

If this was your entire photo collection sitting in this trash can in the photo above, would this make you actually feel relief … or utter panic?

What if I added to this scenario. What if to the best of your knowledge, all of your photos sitting in the trash were already scanned and safely backed up on a couple of your hard drives.

Do you now feel relieved … or still utterly panicked?

From everyone I have talked to about this scenario, it seems safe for me to say that I believe the world is in somewhat of a divide whether it’s actually okay to throw away your prints and slides once they have been scanned and digitally preserved.

And for some, hopefully not too many, I am sure they would say it’s okay to throw away many if not most photos before they were scanned and preserved.

Yes. You heard me.

Best Photo Slide Box to Safely Archive Your Slides — Logan Slide File Review (Video)

Best Photo Slide Box to Safely Archive Your Slides — Logan Slide File Review (Video)

If you’re looking for something to store all of your 35-millimeter slides in, you should consider checking out the slide file made by a company called Logan.

It’s a very nice all-metal box with a hinged lid, two metal clasps to keep it shut and a little handle to carry it by.

I bought three of these because I actually couldn’t find what I thought I was looking for, which were these small, little cardboard boxes that hold maybe 70 or so slides that my dad had been using for many, many years to keep his entire slide collection in.

The Logan Slide File is about US$29.95 a piece. When I bought mine they were $26.95 so they’re not cheap. But almost anything slide-related seems to carry a premium right now in the digital era. But from every slide container I found, this seemed to be the best.

I was very happy to read that this slide file box has been made for about 40 years now and for those who like buying US products, you will be happy to know that they’re all made here in the United States in the City of Bartlett, Illinois.

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Judith Sullivan
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Judith Sullivan

I have found what I believe to be a fairly economical way to make new albums to store my original photos. I purchase acid and lignin free card stock from Michaels (can sometimes get five 50 page packs for $10 on special) and Avery Heavyweight Sheet Protectors — Diamond Clear which are Archival safe. These are 8 1/2 X 11 size. I chose cream card stock and ordered black self adhesive corners (not really inexpensive) for my grandparents album. Any three ring binder will hold the pages. Can even cover or decorate your own binder if you have old ones — I have many! For more compact storage you could use the cardboard type binder with the adjustable metal fasteners.

I lay out the page on the computer and then type the caption and any notations where I want them to be. (Show grid lines to help in placement). I do a draft print on a plain piece of paper (I use the back of mail I receive and am going to discard so I don’t waste new paper). I then make sure the print is in the right place by laying the pictures in their proper places. If needed I make any adjustments in the printing position or font and recheck placement by reprinting draft. When page layout is perfect I then print on card stock. I repeat the same process for the next page. When both pages are printed I then put the corners on the pictures and attach them to the page. I insert the page into the sheet protector and put it in the binder. Looks really good with the old black & white photos.

Funny note: My mother had put all these photos in one of the old sticky albums with the fold over plastic page cover. She identified everything–ON THE BACK OF THE PHOTO!
My daughter commented positively on the newly identified photos with a little history.

Linda
Guest
Linda

I’m so glad I have your site to refer to when I hit the next stages in my Scan My Family Archive project! Just last night I was rocking out to songs from the 40s, 50s, 60s, keeping me jazzed up for the next batch of scans. I’ve done 1600 so far, and am making some good progress. However, that does mean I’ve now got 1600 original prints loosely stuffed into a couple of large file folders and am concerned about where to go next with them. My originals date from the 1920, and a few are museum-worthy. (Granted, many originals are NOT museum-worthy, and I can relate to the “throw them out for heaven’s sake” school of thought there. But I’m of the opinion that they are not really mine to keep or throw – they are mine to hold for now, as important to our family as the jewels handed down from generation to generation.)

Another concern I’ve got is that I’ve taken a lot of old photo albums apart in order to gain the best possible scanning quality (with my family’s permission). It was a no-brainer for those awful “magnetic” (read: glue) photo albums, but I’m still reeling from the emotional impact of having dismembered a wedding album this week.

What all of this means is that I want to atone for my photo album killing sins by replacing them with a better archival system, and I’m really in a quandary. I do not want to acquire a big collection of binders, but I do want to treat my originals with the care they deserve. I also don’t want to spend thousands of dollars. I am leaning toward the Gaylord system of photo boxes, which appear to hold 1700 photos 4″x6″ and smaller per box. Other boxes hold different sizes.

Finally, I would like to say that although I have mixed feelings about taking apart old photo albums, I am convinced it’s the right way to go for another reason: the information occasionally recorded on the backs of the photos. Those little notations have been critical in dating and tagging whole streams of photos, particularly in conjunction with the facial recognition software I am using with Adobe Lightroom. For me, this is the most fun part of the project – the detective work.

Thanks so much for your site – it’s really been invaluable.

Linda

00spitfire
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00spitfire

I started organizing my photos as best as I could with Creative Memory boxes, acid free system. Compact not perfect but a start in my scrapbooking phase. At one time I was going to scrapbook my whole life. I’m glad I abandonded that idea. From there I later decided to take a shoebox at a time to be scanned by a camera store. A little expensive but a little at a time I could afford. But on the Disk they weren’t in any order. So I imported them into Picasa in a Folder called Shoebox 1 then later Shoebox 2 etc. I got about that far and began trying to sort out the dates and events. I used a similar naming system as you did starting with the year, but I never thought about adding the xx’s to the unknowns till further investigation could be done. I am so adopting that technique. You have motivated me to move on to the next shoebox. Thanks for everything.

Mary Gilbert
Guest
Mary Gilbert

When I am done scanning I plan to use archival 12″ X 12″ albums to store and organize the photos scrapbook style. The ones I am talking about come with a sheet of paper that fits into a clear top loading page protector. These are available at lots of stores and have pretty covers. The plain white pages can be replaced with any color if I don’t want white. I will use archival photo corners to attach the photos. The corners will allow the pictures to be removed easily without damage since they are not sticking to the photo, only holding it in place. This will allow me the flexibility to mix any photo sizes on the same page. I can also write on the pages to include information about the photos or memories of the event. If I want the back of a photo to show I am either going to cut a window in the paper or use the photo corners to mount the photo inside the page protector without paper. I have a huge family collection with a great variety of sizes. With this method I won’t be limited to only using one size of photo on a page.

Troy Berg
Guest
Troy Berg

My company, LivingStory.com specializes in digital storage which can last forever. Printing is definitively the best way to share and store photos but many people find it expensive. Our pricing is a onetime fee for unlimited digital archiving of content.
Thank You,
Troy Berg