Caring for Your Personal Photographs 

Originally posted October 2015 on the WLA website. Updated February 2024. 

It may be hard to remember a time before digital photography, when all photographs were printed out. Since the mid-2000s, most of the photos we have taken are in digital form. However, almost every photo taken before that time had a physical print or two with negatives often stored alongside them. Do you have boxes of personal and family photos sitting in a closet in your home?  

Archivists often find photograph prints and negatives in the WLA collections and take steps to make sure these materials are preserved for generations of researchers to use. While you may not have climate-controlled storage areas and custom archival boxes, you can follow the same guidelines when handling and storing your photos to keep your memories safe. 

Do you have photographs that resemble these from the Mundelein College Photograph Collection? Lake Geneva Leadership Weekend, 1980, Box 49, Folder 13.

Water, and Humidity, and Insects – Oh My!      

The first task for storing photographs is to find a suitable environment. The key is to avoid areas with high temperatures and high relative humidity. Those conditions cater to the growth of mold and mildew and increase the rate of deterioration. The optimal temperature would be 68 degrees, but it is key to keep the temperature consistently below 75 degrees.  

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