Archival Photo Storage: What It Means And Where To Buy It

The term “archival” generally refers to material that will not cause additional damage to your family photos. However, there is no industry standard for the term. Manufacturers may describe their products as “archival” without it meaning anything good for the future of your pictures.

Ensure you are truly buying archival photo storage materials by:

  1. Knowing what you need. Does your photograph or other heirloom object require storage that is acid-free? Lignin-free? Buffered? “Acid-free” doesn’t cover every preservation need! Learn what YOUR photo needs in my book Preserving Your Family Photographs.
  2. Reading labels carefully. Look for items that meet your specific needs. Also, did this product pass the Photographic Activity Test (PAT)? That means the makers tested it to meet an industry standard for preservation.
  3. Purchasing from reliable manufacturers and vendors, known for their dedication to preservation industry standards. These include (but are not limited to): Gaylord, Hollinger Metal Edge, Talas and University Products. Also, The Container Store has a department dedicated to preservation materials.

Archival products are often pricier than their non-safe counterparts because they take more time and care to develop and sometimes more expensive materials. Before dropping a lot of money on the wrong supplies, take the time to learn how you should store your photos. (Individually sleeved? In a box or album? What about negatives? Daguerreotypes?) Learn more in Preserving Your Family Photographs.