There are still a great number of photo negatives sitting around with your older printed snapshots. How do you store and care for them?
There’s a good chance you have as many photo negatives floating around in drawers and boxes as you do printed pictures. Once we have a print why do we need the negative? The obvious answer is so we can make copies or enlargements if we decide or have a need to at some later date.
Just like the storage suggestions for our prints (sort, arrange, catalog, etc.) we can do the same for our photo’s negatives. They can be stored with the prints themselves, or separately. There is some rationale of separating them–damage to one storage area may not mean all your photographic efforts are lost. You could keep pictures in one area and the negatives in another (separate closest for instance).
When sorting and cataloging your negatives, you should make them the same as for your prints. That way you have an easy reference to fall back on should the need arise. Also, finding them will be a whole lot easier–for both.
Of recent years, negatives are returned in their own sleeves provided by the developer. They can be stored in these sleeves, but consider this a short term or temporary solution.
Longer term storage will require you to place them in storage holders with archival features–like archival paper separators, individual sleeves. Binders and storage boxes that are lignin and acid free are a must.
Like photographs, print negatives are sensitive to light, heat and humidity. The same care and attention should be given to your negatives as you would your printed photographs.
Plastic pocket pages should be made of a polyethylene or polypropylene. (Do not use holders that contain PVC–a sure trouble maker for your negatives.) Older plastic or paper holders provided by developers may not be safe, and you should change them.
Deterioriating acetate film negatives give off a vineager type odor. They may also begin to wrinkle or warp. Once this process has begun (a chemical degradation) it becomes irreversible. Slowing the decaying process can be aided with cold temperature storage. Cold storage needs to be as frost-free as possible. When removing film negatives for use be sure to bring them slowly back up to room temperature before handling them. Carefully spreading out the negatives as they come up to room temperature will help reduce vapor collecting on them. This process should take place naturally–don’t try to hurry the procedure by adding heat to the negatives!
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