Friday, October 23, 2009

Queries and Answers:What's the Worst Photo Album?

Whenever I present my lecture on Preserving Family Photographs I'm asked the same question, "What the worst type of photo album?" The answer is magnetic photo albums. They aren't really magnetic, but the glue strips or dots on the acid paper pages acts like one. Your photos STICK to the page and you have trouble removing them. Over time the glue will stain your images. While I don't advise taking apart family photo albums, when confronted with a magnetic one it's a different story. Purchase a new album with acid and lignin free pages and non-pvc polyester overlay then carefully remove all your images from that nasty magnetic one and recreate the order of the images on new pages. I know..the next question is "How do I remove them?" You can gently slide a piece of dental floss between the image and the page or you can purchase a microspatuala from a library supplier and try using that to remove the images. Just be careful. It is possible to tear a photo with the floss or the spatula. Make me a promise. No more magnetic photo albums, no matter how cheap they are on sale. Stick with the good stuff. Look for acid and lignin free models with polyester overlays. They will last. Bookmark and Share


Valerie C. said...

My mom's side of the family used these albums. We've inherited them and, based on advise similar to this that I've read over the years, I've tried to convince her to change albums. But, these are albums that her mom put together, so they have sentimental value. She's extremely reluctant to put them in another album.

Anonymous said...

You can also warm the pages slightly to make the glue softer before using the dental floss. Then, make a new copy of the photo as soon as possible. The glue on the original photo will continue to destroy it.

footnoteMaven said...


Have tried the dental floss and it worked, but had to be very careful. It was the suggestion of the Archivist for NARA (Washington, D.C.)in a lecture I attended.

As always, thanks for the good advice.


Nancy Heifferon said...

Amen, squared. I looked you up today, hoping you would offer a solution to this very problem. My dear grandmother, who treasured family history, committed two "sins" regarding photos. First, she made "magnetic" photo albums for all her grandchildren, five of us, divvying up family pictures among us. I needed to pry one off today to scan for a blog post, and used your dental-floss suggestion, and it worked. The second mistake, she didn't label the photos! I don't know who some of the people are so I can't inform my children. Thanks.

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