Why Save Originals?

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Have you kept your original slides, negatives, movie tapes, and/or reels? Saving those original items have a greater benefit than you think.

If you’re on the momentum to downsize or have watched “Tidying Up” on Netflix, then you might be inclined to toss it all away. However, I would caution you not to do so. Here are a few reasons for saving the originals.

NOTE: As I’m writing this article, I realize this is from the perspective in the “ideal” world. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the original photo, slide, negative or movie. Even so, the same concept would apply. My belief is that no matter the quality, if that’s the only copy you have, or can lay your hands on, then that is better than not having it at all. And we do our best with what we have.

Reasons to Save the Originals

  1. Quality: A new print made from a clean, well-preserved negative will produce a much sharper, better image than a print made from a digital scan of a photo.  Think HD vs the old tube TV’s.
    • Prints: You may not be aware of this, unless you’ve compared a negative to a print from Walgreen’s, but machines such as those used by Walgreens to develop and print rolls of film often cropped the photos in the printing process.
    • Videos: Have you seen the quality of 8mm reels transferred to VHS, then transferred to a digitized movie file? Not the greatest quality. However, hanging on to those 8mm reels prove beneficial as technology has improved over the years.
    • Scanning technique: Maybe the reprints were scanned at a low quality, not cleaned for dust, etc.
    • Resolution: In some instances, pictures of pictures are made, or uploaded to sites such as Facebook which downgrades the quality of the image.
  2. Backup: In case something were to happen to your digital files, having kept the originals, is like having a backup.
    • Hard drives, flash drives & external hard drives tend to fail.
    • Cloud-based companies, such as Picasso, potentially go out of business.
    • Human-error. Have you ever accidentally deleted something and can’t find a backup?

Scanning photos, negatives, slides and digitizing videos can be time consuming or costly. However, just think of the alternative, if you lost those items that help you recall your memories? If you have 1000’s of slides, negatives or movies and concerned about space, then that may be the time to downsize those items and concentrate on those that mean the most to you and/or other family members.

Preserving and Storage Ideas

Now, for those items that you want to keep, how can we preserve them and where will you store them?

Storage area: Think of the space where you will be keeping these items. And, please do not store them in the attic, garage or basement! Keeping them all in one area, such as a closet is a great idea. Just be sure that the closet is not below or next to a hot water heater or pipe that could potentially leak.

Preserving Negatives & slides: There are resources available that make sleeves specific to hold these items. And they fit perfectly into a 3-ring binder. TIP: Make sure they archival quality. Meaning they have passed the PAT test.

Photos: So, maybe you don’t have the original slides or negatives, but you do have photos. There are a lot more options available with storing and preserving photos. Anything from photo sleeves for 3-ring binders to boxes specifically for photos. And just like the negatives & sleeves, make sure they are archival quality. Not all archival quality is the same, meaning not necessarily archival.

Movies: Okay, I’m often asked, what do I do with all those VHS tapes or movie reels? I’m of the generation where I hate to depart with those items; partly because of the “what if???” and partly because of nostalgia. So, this is where I think it’s a personal preference and if you have the storage space to keep the originals. However, if you decide that you want to get rid of the those archaic (old) movies, then I highly suggest that you have multiple copies of those digitized movies.

“Negatives and transparencies can be stored the same way as photographic prints, using the same high quality papers and plastic which pass the ANSI IT9.16 Photographic Activity Test (PAT). (The PAT was developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is a test that determines whether or not a storage material will cause fading or staining in photographs.) There are paper and plastic enclosures and storage boxes designed for film formats available from most manufacturers. Like prints, negatives and transparencies should be stored in a cool, dry location.”

Closing Remarks

To wrap it up. Have I mentioned backups? If you’ve followed me for any time, you’ve noticed a trend. Please backup your files! To date, I’ve been able to recover items brought to me, in one way or another. But preservation and prevention is the key to keeping your memories and family keepsakes safe from any potential harm.

Tip: Do not store with metal or plastic. That means rubber bands, paper clips, etc. Items such as these can cause permanent damage.