Cold Storage of film & photos

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    • #131972
      Victoria Merriman


      I’m interested to know what methods institutions are using to vapor proof package and monitor film and still images in cold storage. We will have a walk-in freezer, no humidity control, no gasket cabinets–just shelving. Some of the film is quite valuable, so we’d like to aim for the best way to protect it. We’ll be looking for an expert conservator to help with this, too.

    • #131979

      Have you read the related topics in this forum?

      Basically when you don’t have RH control you are limited to vacuum thermical-sealed envelopes as the ones used in food storage. The most used method includes a neutral or alcaline pH paper interleaving.

      This makes the enclosuring more expensive (of course is still a lot more cheaper than buying a RH controlled freezed) and changes even more the way you can access that material later since you will have to break the envelopes and have a longuer wait (in controlled conditions) until you can actually access the material. It involves also a more intense control of envelopes and seals integrity since the RH will be always 100%.

    • #131978

      I second what Mauro has said.

      Here are some resources for cold storage for photographic materials:

      For a museum where I volunteered during my studies, I used Mark McCormick-Goodhart’s 2003 report on using the CMI method as an easy and budget-friendly solution for a small collection that is consulted infrquently. It requires regular monitoring, but it seems like a viable solution if executed correctly.

    • #131977
      Victoria Merriman

      Thank you both. Mauro, the expense is the reason we won’t be buying an RH-controlled freezer–still a much higher expense than the vaporproof and other packaging materials. Christina, the CMI method seems like the only realistic option, and I thank you for the links. One of them was about the experience people had with this method over time, which is what I’m especially interested in. I did read the Vancouver report, and was impressed by how well they did with their limited funds.

      What makes me nervous is the differences in opinions about aspects of the CMI process–one is how to prep film for packaging. One research scientist told me film should be acclimated for a week or two at about 30% RH before it goes into the packaging, another report says no acclimation necessary, just make sure RH is 50% when bagging. I work with conservators, but I’m not sure about finding one who really understands this area.

    • #131976
      M. Susan Barger


      The National Park Service produced a CD video production on Cold Storage five or six years ago. It is available online at:”
      This provides a wealth of very useful information.


    • #131975

      I salute decitions of going for cold storage solutions, probably the only serious choice when storing colour material, for example.

      But risky mesures needs strong reponse capacity. Before starting you should have concrete answers for questions like: how many decades your institution will be able to maintain the cold storage facility? What will happend if freezer stops working or power went off? have you power supplies and/or freezers available in very few hours to recover control of the situation?

      When we don’t have economical resources to maintain a RH controled freezer and we choose a regular one, we must compensate the lack of money ressources with an equivalent amount of human ressouces. The control and the reponse capacity must be a lot intense since we’re putting our material in a very extreme situation and some hours of difference can damage it a lot more than several decades of doing nothing.

      Once again, when going into details like the external (to the object, not the environment) RH at the moment of sealing, the importance of the interleaving paper is capital. Its capacity of contain and balance RH inside the envelope will depend of its caracteristics and also in their internal RH at that moment. We must realise that a 50% of RH a 20ºC (sorry, I don’t use fanrenheit often) will be more like 90% at 10ºC, so imagine the amount of water if you go into 1ºC… That’s why interleaving with neutral higroscopic materials become so important.

      Just some toughts.

    • #131974

      Victoria, The Image Permanence Institute has great resources about environmental controls, especially relating to documents, photographs, and films. Try this link for some targeted information about your question:
      These conservators recommend acclimatization of media to 60% RH or less before packaging; also, you may find the case studies useful.

    • #131973
      Victoria Merriman

      Thank you again, all, especially for posting links. Mauro, your comment on “risky measures require strong response capability” is right on. A colleague just forwarded the good work of the National Film & Sound Archive of Australia: They build on some of the research done by IPI.

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