Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Residents Get Lesson in Preserving Photographs

• Pictures should be kept cool, dark and dry to avoid fading.

Teresa Mesquit
Teresa Mesquit of the Getty Research Institute shows people how to maintain and store photographs. (Photo: Eddie Sadiwa/The Signal)
By Kristopher Daams
Signal Staff Writer

Monday, January 23, 2006

hen it comes to the environment that photographs must be in to last the longest amount of time, there is no substitute for the three essentials: cool, dark and dry.
    That was the lesson taught by Teresa Mesquit of the Getty Research Institute at a Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society seminar on Sunday on how to preserve photographs.
    It is the environment that one would store their favorite bottle of wine.
    The ideal container to hold photographs in would be a plastic box, Mesquit said, with the photographs inside plastic sleeves, or more boxes.
    "I'd say to keep it in a plastic waterproof box and within that box you'd have your smaller boxes," Mesquit said.
    A hard plastic is preferable for a box to put pictures in, Mesquit said. And if it's not made out of PVC — polyvinyl chloride — that's even better.
    Something like a box made by Rubbermaid would be good. For the material the plastic is made out of, polyethylene is a step better than polyurethane, and polyester is the best.
    "Whatever you put in the plastic you want the photographs to be in contact with something inert," Mesquit said.
    Wooden boxes are no good to store photos in.
    What Mesquit said is "a big problem for wooden boxes" is the fact that they give off tannic acid. If one must use a wooden box, cardboard slides placed on the inside walls of the box would capture the acid.
    And metal boxes are no good, too.
    A problem with them is that they get chipped and the metal will get corroded due to oxidation, Mesquit said, and that can interact with photographs.
    Is it also not OK to store photographs with newspaper clippings, Mesquit said. Acid from the wood pulp used to make the paper will interact with the silver in the photographs and the dyes in the color. That causes fading.
    The temperature the photographs are stored at is also very important.
    Say it is dry in Saugus in the summer with 20 percent humidity and the temperature is at 105 degrees.
    "In 10 years color photographs will see significant dye fading," Mesquit said. "But if it was at 75 degrees the photos would last 125 years until that dye fading would occur visibly."
    Were the temperature at 85 degrees, they would last 50 years.
    Mesquit also talked about the humidity problem. That makes photographs in the tropics troublesome.
    "You never want to get above 65 percent relative humidity," Mesquit said.

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