Restoring Old or Damaged Photographs

Though we may have the best intentions when we store our old family photographs, often they become lost, damaged or forgotten over time. Finding these treasured memories that set the storyline of our past can be an exciting discovery, but what do you do if they have become too damaged to display?

Sometimes these things are best left in the hands of a professional, but for minor “bumps and bruises,” follow these steps to restore your favorite family photos so you can appreciate them for generations to come.

Uncurl edges in a makeshift humidity box. Curling happens to photograph edges when they lose moisture, so adding back some water to the photo without submerging it can be a fairly quick fix. Fill a small waterproof box with a few inches of water, and set wire frame (such as a cookie sheet) on top, making sure not to submerge it. Lay the photograph on the wiring for several hours, and seal the top to add humidity back to the photo.

Fix tears with acid-free supplies. Acid can ruin a delicate photo over time, so using acid-free tape, or acid-free paper and glue (found at most crafts stores) is a great way to fix slight tears without causing long term ruin. Simply place the tape or paper on the back of the photograph after lining up the tears, and set it dry for several hours.

Separate stuck together photos with distilled water. If you’ve ever tried to pry apart two or more photos stuck together, you know the damage it causes can far outweigh the effort. Instead, purchase some distilled water from your local grocery store to soak these glued together memories. Separate them gently as they soak, then lay them out to towel dry. As they dry, they may lose too much moisture, and they may start to curl so use a book or paperweight to hold edges down.

When in doubt, seek a professional. If you aren’t sure you are up to the task of these simple fixes, or you just don’t want to risk the loss of ages-old family memories, the best thing to do is seek a professional to help restore. They will have all of the tools and the knowledge needed.

Display your photos proudly. After you have mastered separating, mending and uncurling old photos, make sure you find a place to display them properly in your home. A nice set of antique frames, in various sizes and shapes, will make your family tree stand out as a new conversation piece. Having this history easily accessible can bring a sense of belonging to your entire family, and maybe encourage further exploration. 

22nd Aug 2017 Eric Morgan

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