Monday 23 March 2015

Getting Photos Out Of Old Albums

I've been whittling away at a bad weather project. Like everyone else, I used magnetic photo albums in the '70's and 80's, only to discover the photos have become stuck to the album pages and can't be easily removed. There's nothing magnetic about those albums; the tiny stripes that held the pictures in place are glue.

The adhesive has dried out and is causing the photographic paper to deteriorate. The pages themselves are not acid-free and are causing more damage to the photos. The icing on the cake is the plastic cover, which is further corrupting the photos. The photos become brittle and the colours fade or change. There's no question that they have to come out. I can save you a little research time by directing you to a good video showing how archivists deal with this issue by clicking here.

The first thing I did was take the pages out of the albums and remove the plastic sleeves. That buys a little more time for working away at the project. No matter how many videos you watch that say the removal will be easy, it won't!  The ones I'm working on right now are particularly difficult to remove because they are home developed and the paper is thinner than the usual professional paper. I have the negatives for these pics and can risk some experimentation. I recommend taking a good photograph of your pic before you start, or you could scan the pic to be sure you have a copy in case anything goes wrong.

These are my tools. ~

I split open the pages so I could get at the back of the album sheets. ~

Then, I lifted a corner of a photo and slid a piece of dental floss under it. I tried waxed and unwaxed floss and couldn't see any difference in performance. Gently pulling the floss back and forth in a sawing motion begins to release the photo from the glue. ~

Applying heat to the back of the album pages every so often, helps to soften the glue. You can put the pages in the microwave, after removing the plastic cover, for 15 sec. intervals to soften the glue. Anything longer than that runs the risk of scorching the photos. Overall, the hair blower did as well and was less risk.

In some areas, the floss couldn't budge the glue and I had to resort to using a sharp knife to pry the photo off. This usually took some of the album paper with it. ~

You want your photos to be lying face down on a natural linen or cotton cloth to ensure you aren't corrupting them with even more chemicals.

It's critical to do any lifting with a knife with the photos face down. If you try to lift the photo up from the sheets, instead of the sheets up from the photos, you will get wrinkle lines and cracks in your photos.

These removed photos are from the same album page and are the same home developed type. The one on the left is badly damaged by removing it facing up and the one on the right came off with a slight bend on the upper left corner, where it was lifted to get the floss between the photo and album page, by removing it face down.

This is a time consuming, sometimes frustrating and painful process, but worth it to save precious memories.

I'll go to the trouble for a picture of a well loved though very bad runaway dog (that cost me a fortune in dog catcher fees) and my baby girl who's all grown up now!  I hope this gets you started on preserving your precious photos.

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