Photographs last longest in cool, dry areas. An air-conditioned attic equipped with a dehumidifier serves as an ideal storage space for printed photographs. Avoid leaving pictures in a damp attic that has seasonal temperature fluctuations, according to The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.
Moisture and heat cause photographs to get moldy and stick together. To avoid damage, store photographs in a climate-controlled environment with temperatures ranging between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 35 to 50 percent humidity.
Photograph Storage Containers
Increase the longevity of your photographs by properly storing them. Once you've designated a location in the attic, choose plastic totes made from uncoated pure polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester. These materials do not contain acids that can discolor and fade prints over time.
If you prefer using cardboard boxes or paper envelopes, select lignin- and acid-free archival products. If the storage container has visible adhesive-sealed areas -- such as the center seam of an oversize envelope -- make sure the backside of the photograph faces the seam, or place a protective sheet of archival paper between the photo and seam. Over time, the adhesive may leak through.
About Photo Albums
If your photographs rest neatly tucked inside photo albums, check the album label to make sure the pictures won't get damaged. Archival-quality photo albums made from lignin- and acid-free paper products will last for many years in an attic. If your photo albums have PVC plastic sheets or sticky, self-adhesive plastic pages covering the photographs, the images will fade or discolor over time.
To avoid wrinkling or denting of the photographs, store photo albums upright. When stacked, the weight of other albums can damage photos on the bottom of the pile.
Reducing Excess Photographs
Before toting boxes of photographs to the attic, condense your prints. If you have envelopes of extra prints left over from 2-for-1 specials, share the photos with family members or dispose of the extras.
To use less storage space, consider scanning all of your prints to CDs or DVDs. While this task may take hours or even days, it makes the images usable on a computer and gives you another option to share the prints with family and friends. Store both CDs and DVDs in archival albums and boxes, not paper sleeves or plastic jewel cases.