Quick Preservation Tips

Take the First Step

The most important part of a preservation effort is taking the first step. Don’t let the pursuit of perfection be an obstacle to getting started. A simple first step like moving photos out of the attic or basement to a bedroom closet will have a significant impact.

Basic Factors

Factors to consider are temperature, relative humidity, light, pests, mold, water leaks and risk of flooding, and handling.

Temperature and Humidity

  • Get your keepsakes out of the attic or the basement
  • Keep them in a climate-controlled part of your home
  • Avoid extremes in temperature and relative humidity


  • Minimize handling and handle with care
  • Fully support items
  • Make sure hands are clean


  • Protect items from dust, light, and handling with acid-free boxes, folders, or polyester sleeves
  • Make copies—digital or photocopies
  • Distribute copies geographically (among family members, for example)
  • Store the original safely and use the copy for display
  • Avoid plastic containers and sleeves that smell like a new shower curtain (PVC); types of safe and inert plastics includes polyethylene and polypropylene

Label, Label, Label

  • One of the greatest risks to photographs andaudio and video recordings is poor or missing labels
  • Items are unidentifiable without a descriptive label
  • Use pencil when writing on the back of photos
  • Identify people, places, and dates in detail (instead of “Mom,” write Mom’s full name)

If you’re not sure… ask someone

  • Library of Congress’s Ask a Librarian: www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/
  • Regional Alliance for Preservation: www.rap-arcc.org
  • Attend a preservation workshop at your local library or regional preservation center.

Quick Tips for Preservation (PDF)

A photo slide held up to the light showing two people in the picture