Many of the most popular documents in a town’s past are its photographs. These photographs may have been given to the library because it is where all of the historical documents are stored or they may have been donated by a patron of the library. For whatever reason, rural libraries tend to have a large amount of photographs that document their town’s history. Archiving photographs can be as simple as putting them in acid & lignin free folders and boxes or Mylar sleeves and then storing them in a dark room. But for those who would like to display their collection of photographs they have a few options.
If creating a display with photographs from the archive do not display them in direct sunlight. The UV rays are what make documents and pictures fade over time. I would also suggest keeping them in a clear envelope of some type. Two common types are Mylar and Polyester envelopes. For the library that would like to allow their patrons to look through their photographs without having worry about them wearing gloves and damaging the photo, I would suggest scrapbooking them into albums. Though this may sound silly it is actually a very effective and efficient way to organize and display photographs. The majority of scrapbooks and their pages are acid & lignin free and the adhesives for them are also acid & lignin free. This is important because acid in tape is what turns the tape yellow in time and would therefore further damage the photographs. If the sound of sticking an old photograph to a page is slightly abhorrent I would suggest using photograph corners. With those the photo is never stuck in the scrapbook.
In a scrapbook you can also transcribe any writings that happen to be on the back of the photograph. This will make it easier for patrons to learn about the item and the transcription will prevent any future need to see the back of the photograph if it is placed directly on the page. Each page of the scrapbook should also have a Mylar sleeve. This will protect the photographs from being touched when a patron is looking at them as well as preventing dust and other damage. Scrapbooking can be a fun and innovative way to preserve a town’s photographs and display the history of the town at the same time.
Additionally, for those of you that feel like scrapbooking will be a lot of extra work but like the idea of allowing the patrons to just look through the photographs I would suggest putting them in an album. You can purchase photograph sleeves to the size of the pictures in your collection and then put them in a nice 3-ring binder. I would suggest not using a binder from Wal-Mart or Target because they are not archivally safe.
Some places to purchase archival scrapbooking supplies:
- Gaylord Archival Supplies:
- Hobby Lobby:
- Hollinger Metal Edge:
Note: Page protectors vary depending on the scrapbook decided on. Many of the refill pages will come with page protectors so check that when ordering.