I have been working on removing negatives from old paper envelopes and placing them in PrintFile polyethylene sleeves. Since they are already in protective sleeves, can I place them in regular cardboard storage boxes? Thank you.
Thanks for your question! Assuming that the PrintFile sleeves have small gaps and openings to some degree (meaning that they are not completely encapsulated), I would recommend placing the negatives in an acid-free box. Negatives can be delicate, sensitive objects with complex chemistries. Minor fluctuations in temperature and RH and/or exposure to acidic housing and off-gassing can have deleterious effects on photographic/film media, which is why I would advocate for the acid-free boxes. I will do some research and provide some links associated the preservation and storage of negatives.
Thank you for contacting C2C with your question on preservation storage of negatives.
Here is what the NEDCC Preservation Leaflet, Storage Enclosures for Photographic Materials…
Regardless of material or process, all enclosures used to house photographs should meet the specifications provided by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO 18902:2013 and ISO 18916:2007 provide specifications on enclosure formats, papers, plastics, adhesives, and printing inks, and require that storage materials pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). For more information, see http://www.iso.org/iso/home.htm.
Labels such as acid-free, lignin-free, or buffered do not guarantee that a material is safe to use with photographs. Even these chemically inert papers may be harmful to the photographic image; the only way to be certain of the stability of the paper is to purchase materials that have passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).
According to information on the Print File website, their enclosures are compliant with the PAT http://www.printfile.com/PAT-information.aspx thus the sleeves in a cardboard box will provide better environmental conditions than storing them in degrading paper envelopes. This said, if you store the negatives in the polyethylene sleeves in a regular cardboard storage box, you will have to account for off gassing of the box. You could do this by storing the sleeves in pH neutral envelopes or folders before placing them in the cardboard box. This would also add another layer of support and protection from mechanical damage if the box moves.
I hope this assists you in deciding what amount of control you want over the negative storage environment you want. Here are some additional resources:
Caring For Photographs, Connecting to Collections Care
I can’t thank you enough! I volunteer with the local historical association and we have over 10,000 sets of negatives from glass plates of the late 1800s to 1970s 35mm negatives … and everything in-between. As a non-profit, funds are always tight but preserving the negatives has been my priority. By putting them in pH neutral folders and using regular cardboard boxes will save a lot of money. Or at least until we can buy the special boxes. Again thank you for all your help.
Here are a few additional resources for you:
Library of Congress: Information Leaflet on the Care, Handling, and Storage of Photographs http://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/photolea.html
The Image Permanence Institute has some downloadable PDFs that may be of help as well: https://www.imagepermanenceinstitute.org/imaging/storage-guides
(Thanks Tammy for the great NEDCC links and info!)
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