Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Magnetic Photo Album

Photo album week continues at Preserving a Family Collection!  Today is the sad case of the so-called “magnetic” photo album.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a bunch of these albums, dating from the early 1960s to the late 1980s.  They may have looked nice once, but the formerly white album pages have deteriorated to a sickly yellow-brownish color.  You know it can’t be good for the photos!

Barbara Lemmen, Senior Photograph Conservator at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, took a look at one of our family’s magnetic photo albums and patiently explained how the albums are slowly yet surely damaging our family photos.  You lay the photo on the adhesive-coated album page and it catches.  Bonds immediately start forming between the adhesive and the back of the photo, and increase over time to firmly hold the photo in place.  Then, over the years, the chemicals from the adhesive leach into the back of the photo, eventurally spreading through and staining or fading the photo image on the front.

Much as Barb likes to keep photo albums intact whenever possible, she recommends removing the photos in this case.  Unfortunately, removing photos from these albums can be very challenging.  If the bond is strong, the photos can easily tear or crease.  But if you can safely manage the process of getting them out, you should.

If there’s anything special about the album (notes written on it or an especially artistic arrangement), Barb suggests digitizing the album pages to preserve a record of them.  But once you’ve finished the digitizing, rescue the photos and toss the album.  It’s done enough damage.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

1 comment:

  1. may i know the size of the photo in that album ?