The Archival Safe Scrapbook: Tips For Choosing A Safe Album

Scrapbooks are a time-honored method of storing and sharing photos and memories. But traditional albums, papers, inks and glues can actually damage our pictures over the long run. In the 1970s, I created a series of albums using the wrong materials. I didn’t know any better. Today, those albums are in terrible shape. The acid and the glue in the magnetic album stained the images. The plastic overleaf deteriorated and stuck to the pictures.

Fortunately, lots of materials on the market today can help you create an archival safe scrapbook that will safely store your photos for years. These albums cost more than those at the discount stores, but they are worth the investment. Here are some tips for purchasing albums:

  1. The best albums should be purchased from reputable suppliers, like those listed on my Archival Photo Storage page.
  2. Choose albums that are constructed of paper, boards, adhesives and coverings that have passed the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test).
  3. Stay away from vinyl Naugahyde because its off-gassing hydrogen chloride will destroy the images.
  4. If possible, choose an album that comes with a slipcase to protect images from light and dust.
  5. Page protectors for album pages, if made of safe materials like polypropylene or inert plastic, can protect your images from spills, dust, abrasion and other mishaps. Conservators suggest avoiding polyethylene sheets.

Any paper, adhesives, inks, decorative elements (stamps, stickers, die-cut papers, etc.) and memorabilia you include in your album also can affect your photos over time. Learn more about choosing safe materials and including memorabilia in Chapter 12 of my book Preserving Your Family Photographs.