How to store negatives for long periods of time

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by John Di Leo, Sep 16, 2021.

  1. I spent a lot of time during the last year digitizing family slides and negatives, and organizing them. I left the slides in their "carousals" or the original slide boxes and the negatives I put into Print File archival negative preservers.
    My question is about the negatives in their archival sleeves: How to best store them?
    Chances are they will not be seen again until my children are going through my belongings after I depart, hoping that's a LOONG time, decades I expect. Right now I have them nestled in hanging folders in a file drawer, but would something else be better, eg a three ring binder, or laying flat in a large sealed Rubbermaid or Tupperware container?
    Some of these negatives are over 60 years old. They were kept in their original preservers that came from drugstores and occasional camera shops or fast processing labs like Wolf Photo. Actually that kept them very well. They were always in climate controlled areas of my house.
    I appreciate any feedback and suggestions.
  2. AJG


    For long term storage with Print File pages, I use three ring binders with slip cases that I got years ago from Light Impressions. They were made from archival materials and when I recently went to retrieve some negatives from 45 years ago they were still in perfect condition with very little dust. There are also hard plastic boxes with lower capacity that I've also used with similar results.
    John Di Leo and robert_bowring like this.
  3. SCL


    I’ve had mine in plastic archival sheets stacked flat for years
    John Di Leo likes this.
  4. Chances are that your children would want to look through your negatives decades from now are slim.

    I have just witnessed friends having to clean out their fathers apartment, and among all the stuff their father had accumulated, the many boxes of negative was not something they had energy look through in that situation. Negatives went straight to the trash. Only prints went through a review.
    And it is not the first time I have seen that.

    In case you kids think differently, I think you are on the right track with the negatives. Low humidity storage with space for air to circulate as in NOT up against a wall which may become damp from condensation during seasonal changes. Don't put hard pressure on them and don't put them into binders/boxes/containers/furniture etc. made of materials that may de-gas chemicals.
  5. Après moi, le déluge

    I store my negatives in acid-free paper envelopes.
    I have the slides in metal slide storage boxes.

    I don't trust ANY clear plastic holders. In Kodak's case, anyhow, I have practically found the best preservation in the original Kodak boxes and paper sleeves.

    My daughter is a photographer, but she will not have the space to achive MY "stuff" -- she has stuff of her own, anyway.

    That's one reason why I've pretty much digitized anything that I can, She might have room for a few disks, or such.
    Beyond that, and even for the digital media, I will consign everything to the "gnawing criticism of the mice"

    My professional images, with luck, will probably be archived by one of several such archives operated by museums.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  6. Yes, I realize that, but it could happen, and they won't take up that much space. And I have been sure to tell them ( lay the guilt on them) about all the long work I did to digitize them for them. ;-)
    Many of them were in print file sheets in a three ring binder from YEARS ago, and they were fine. Just kept on a bookshelf.
  7. Thanks for all the suggestions, all useful.
    I think I may go the three ring binder route. There can be binders for various categories and I have enough bookshelf space available. The Print File sheets have proven their worth to me.
    Our critical mice are in the attic, not the bookshelves, though I do have to worry about the next Katrina or Ida.
  8. Have you cross-referenced the scans to the physical negatives?

    I give my negative pages an arbitrary number (i.e R001, R002,...) and named my scans RnnnFmm where Rnnn is the page and Fmm is the number of the frame on the roll. As an example R017F02 would be frame 2 on page R017 Each negative page has only one roll on it.

    It makes any particular image easy to find.
  9. Not the frames, but each sheet bears the exact same name as the folder of the digitized copies. If I am looking for a particular image I just need to find it in the particular sheet of negatives and look for the image. I don't think it will be that hard, if I ever go looking for one.
    I was thinking about numbering the sheets, but thought that would be redundant since the names of folders and sheets match exactly. When a contact sheet exists I file it right behind the negative sleeve. Many times I had 5x5 proofs instead of contact sheets and I have those stored in plastic sleeves behind the corresponding negatives.
    I am using multiple binders that are specific for particular images, eg "Family," "France," "Italy," etc. Some binders are bigger than others and I may sub-divide the larger sections (like Family), and change my external drive's folder hierarchy to reflect that, eg Family/Christmas or Family/School/Graduation etc.
    That's the easy part though...going through negatives that date back to the late 50s and included not only my stuff, but my father's and my father-in-law's, and figuring out dates...that was the time consuming part, as well as wating for the Nikon ES-2 negative copy adapter to supplement the ES-1 I had.
    There is LIGHT at the end of this tunnel!
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2021
    bgelfand likes this.
  10. I have a box of my grandfather's negatives.

    On the other hand, I haven't looked at them all that much in the time that I have had them.

    I suspect that the chance that your children will keep them aren't so bad, but the chance that
    they look at them, much less.

    Slides maybe more likely, as they can be viewed by hand easier than negatives.

    Since they were scanned, it is more likely that they will look at the scans, assuming that they
    are on a storage media that they can read at the time. The lifetime of much storage media
    is long enough, but that of read/write hardware, not so long.
  11. YMMV, but some of the most interesting negatives I came across were from my wife's parents, when she was a child in the early 50s. 120s, 127s, 110s,
    I also have the prints from my grandfather dating back to the 1920s and sl before.
    Yes, they can sit a while before the spirit moves you and you have the considerable time needed, but in my experience it was well worth it. I would recommend you look at those old negatives. They really don't blossom until you've converted them to positives. You could be very surprised and pleased.
  12. I did find some of my grandfather's negatives with pictures of me, and scanned them. They didn't live close, though, so that was rare.
    He died when I was 10, and I inherited much of his darkroom and some other photographic equipment. My dad had the negatives
    for many years, but then I got them, since he was even less likely to look at them.

    A also have some of my dad's slides, which is what he took when I was young. Mostly ones with people pictures,
    and not so much scenery.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  13. I do store all of my negs in Print File - BUT I have a lot of negatives that my grand parents shot starting back well before WW 1. Sizes were all the way from 116, 122 4x5 and 5x7. No special storage other than plain envelopes. Except for a few that had water damage, all were in great shape.
  14. One bit of advice- avoid any type of glassine envelopes. The glue will get you over time, even in mild humidity. Paper seems safest but you need need humidity control if possible.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  15. AJG


    +1 on that--when I first started storing negatives I used glassine files that would hold up to 40 negatives made by Agfa. 3 or 4 years later I went to reprint a negative and discovered residue from the files that I was able to clean off, so I refiled everything with PrintFile sleeves that I have used ever since without issues.
    John Di Leo likes this.
  17. Since I lack the ability to "throw things out" [you never know when you might need them], there may be some benefit to the 'editing' of my archive by the digital mice.

    I do use some 'gold' disks, but I've only had failures on a very few really old normal DVDs. The failure rate of smaller capacity CDs seems to be worse than the DVDs.

    For some of what I consider to be my "best" or "most important", I have actually made separation (RGB) images. Since I have not got around to making "actually existing" archival paper copies, however, the problem of digital decay is still there.

    My 'real' archive at the moment is a complete backup of everything on a 5TB solid state device. Like all old social scientists, I am 'broken down by age and sex" so there is a chance that the array will actually outlast me.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2021

Share This Page