Preserving very old photos

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by sommer, Sep 30, 2005.

  1. My husband hit the historical jackpot this afternoon. He was digging around in the attic of our nearly 100-year-old home (which we've owned for all of 2 years!) and found 2 boxes full of the original owner's old receipts, documents, correspondence and other things that will make for fascinating reading for weeks to come!

    He also found some photographs, which we estimate are from the 1920's or earlier. When we moved in, the previous owners gave us a photo of the house with the original owner standing in front in the early 20's...that photo had been framed but was extremely faded. I quickly scanned a copy of it in case it should fade further and then kept it on display.

    The photos we found today are still in excellent condition. They're very clear and not at all faded. They show the original owners, their son and daughter or daughter-in-law standing in front of the house. I'd really like to display them, but I'm afraid of having them fade away. Is there something I can have done to preserve them so that I put them out to enjoy, or are they better off tucked away back in the attic?

    We're only the 3rd owners of this house (which apparently cost $2000 to build and was originally a poultry yard) and that's amazing for a house of this age in this area....most have turned over far more than 3 times in nearly a century! We have a historical marker out front, and people often ask to see the house. I'd love to be able to share these old old pictures and the documents we've found but I worry about exposing them to the elements! Any advice?
  2. Sommer,
    This is indeed a treasure and I can appreciate your caution. I believe I would seek someone to make current copies of all of them, then place the originals back in the storage situation that allowed them to preserve. They are quite valuable.
  3. Thanks, Dave! I think that's what I'll do. As much as I would love to display the originals, it's just not worth it. They'll go back up into the attic as soon as I have some copies made. I appreciate your input!
  4. PJohnP


    Feb 5, 2005
    Sommer :

    The attic may not be the best place for them, even if they've lasted there for all this time. Large changes in humidity and temperature are not ideal for preservation of the photos. If they're truly valuable items you may need to find a climate controlled (or at least, not as cyclic) storage location for these items.

    John P.
  5. Sommer, it must have been fun finding this treasure, but if the truth be known old photos and documents have little value unless they belong to someone who is well known or famous.

    I discovered this a few years ago when I embarked on tracing back a document my husband owns. This lead me a large blue suitcase containing documents from as early as 1800, which was still in family hands here in California. The suitcase contained part of a large map book, which I later learned was part of Winterbotham's American Atlas published in 1796, the second atlas of this type published in America. Another find was two complete years of "The New York Journal and Patriot Register" from the years 1795-96 each signed at the top with my husband's great, great grandfather's name. Aparently he had a contract with the City of New York to provide sperm whale oil lighting in the early 1800's. The contract, spotted with residual oil marks, was one of the documents in the suitcase.

    I spend many months scanning and archiving this information, which we later presented to the Red Hook, New York Historical Society (that is where many of the family members are buried).

    I consulted with Sotheby's about the value of these documents and that's when I learned about valuations. Unfortunately, while documents such as these are invaluable in seaching for historical information, they have little value otherwise.

    Personally I had a wonderful time discovering family history and don't regret the effort. I only wish I could have found missing New Brunswich, New Jersey documents from about 1720 to 1780, which apparent have disappeared or were burned. That's where finding the lineage and trail of my husband's great, great grandfather, who was born about 1764-5, goes cold.

    aka beaucamera
  6. I would (if possible) try to make scans of them. And store originals in a climate controlled area. My wife had found tons of old pics at her parents house and she has spent the past couple years scanning and color correcting. She is doing a pretty good job of it.
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