What is archival?
The dictionary defines the term "archival" to mean that a material or article is kept in or for use in a special area for long-term retention (as in an archive). Today the definition has become blurred, especially in the arts and crafts areas. Many companies place "archival" on products to imply permanence, durability, or chemical stability, meaning it could safely be used for preservation purposes. However there is currently no agreement on a standard definition or a quantifiable method for verifying most materials’ archival properties.
How do I know if a product is photo-safe?
The most common and reliable test used to predict harmful chemical interactions between scrapbooking materials and photographic images is the Photographic Activity Test (PAT). However, even "passes PAT" does not always insure the product will be "acid-free" or "archival". Other tests, such as pH for acidity level may also be needed.
What’s the best thing I can do to preserve my photographs and scrapbook?
Keep them in an area that is cool and dry, use preservation-quality scrapbook materials, and handle them carefully. Keep them vertical on their spine or in an archival box if horizontally stacked so that any pressure will be on the box and not on the scrapbook pages.
Is it true that I shouldn’t crop my pictures?
No, most prints are cut during processing so they shouldn’t be affected by further trimming. Before you cut up your photograph, be sure to think about what you are cutting out - it may have historical or sentimental value years from now. It is strongly suggested to never crop a historic or one-of-a-kind photo. Make a copy and crop that. Never crop instant photos (like Polaroid), they may contain chemicals that can leak out.
Should I preserve black and white photos differently than color photos?
Technically, color photo materials need to be kept at lower temperatures than black-and-white for long-term storage. In homes however, these materials will likely be kept together at room conditions. The choice of scrapbook materials will be the same for either as they both suffer from the same decay forces. It’s just that color fades a little faster. Is one better than the other for archivability? This used to be an easy answer - black and white photos last longer. They fade and stain at slower rates than color photo materials. However, nowadays many black-and-white photos are actually printed on color paper, so they won’t last any longer than a color photo.
Are the photos I print on my computer archival?
Yes and no. There are digital prints that are long-lasting, but it takes some technical knowledge to weed out the good from the bad. Currently we recommend using traditional photo and scrapbook materials. If you need to write something long, and don’t want to do it by hand, you may have better luck printing it on a laser printer than on an inkjet printer. If you really want to pursue the ink-jet printing route, we believe it is less risky to use manufacturer recommended printer/ink/paper combinations. It is also best to use pigment inks as opposed to dyes. Some ink sets use pigments only for the black. Watch out for that.
How do I make a duplicate copy of my scrapbook pages for each of my children?
You can scan entire pages into files on the computer. However, if you are using 12x12 pages you will need a large format printer to print them back out. For this method follow the guidelines above regarding digital printing. You can also use a color copier. Copier toners and papers can be long lasting. Just don’t ever store copier images in PVC!
How do you preserve a sonogram/ultrasound image?
These types of prints can be very unstable. We strongly recommend it be copied onto something that will last little longer. Of course, keep the original. It will always be important. The first option is to make a copy on a copier. Make sure the paper is good quality and white. Most of these machines produce copies that will last a long time. DO NOT store these in PVC pages! PVC will destroy the copy. Your best bet is the polypropylene page protectors you already use in your albums. The second option is to scan the picture into your computer. Because these images don’t usually have the high-resolution of regular photos, you can print them on a laser printer rather than an inkjet printer. Laser printers use the same toners and papers as copy machines. If you really want to pursue the inkjet-printing route, follow the guidelines above regarding digital printing.
How do I safely preserve a newspaper article in my scrapbook?
You are better off copying the article onto good quality office paper (acid-free, lignin-free, and not recycled) using pigment toner and putting the copy into your album. Treating the original newsprint (the paper newspapers are printed on) with a deacidification spray may reduce the rate at which it decays, but it still won’t last as long as a copy. Also, deacidification spray will not make newsprint safe to be next to photos. The pollutants from lignin can still stain and mar your photos. Still, your original is worth keeping in a separate box or folder, and a deacidification spray may help it last there a little longer. If you really feel compelled to put the original in your scrapbook, don’t include it on a page containing any photos or other memorabilia. (Note: for additional information there is a special
brochure on newspaper preservation at the SPS website)
What is lignin?
Why is it unsafe for my scrapbook? Lignin is a component of wood that if left in pulp during papermaking can result in the staining and marring of photographs and the yellowing and weakening of papers. Remember just because something is acid-free doesn’t mean it’s lignin-free!
I’ve heard that buffered papers are not safe for color photos. Is that true?
So far, there is no evidence showing that buffered papers fade or stain photographs over time. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) states that buffered paper should be used because it may help the paper itself last longer. This is important because the scrapbook pages are intended to provide support and last as long as your photos, memorabilia, journaling, and decorations. Remember too that just because a paper is buffered doesn’t mean it is lignin-free or photo-safe.
How can I safely use vellum in my scrapbook?
The vellum used today is not actually vellum because real vellum is made from the skin of young livestock (Yuck!). All scientific conservation studies on vellum have been on "real" vellum. What the term vellum refers to in scrapbooking is a style of paper surface finish and translucency. These products are made from wood and cotton pulps like most papers. Their surfaces are treated to create the vellum finish, and they are chemically processed to create the translucency. The stability and effects that these materials may have over time on other scrapbook components has not yet been studied. At this point it would probably be best to at least keep vellum out of direct contact with the fronts of photos.
How can I safely rubber-stamp in my scrapbook?
The inks for stamping in your scrapbook should be pigment-based, fade-proof, waterproof, bleed-proof, lightfast, and pass the PAT. The stamp pad should not be made from latex as contaminants from the pad can leach into the ink and then be applied to the page.
How do I make my journaling last as long as my scrapbook?
Use pigment ink pens that are fade-resistant, lightfast, bleedproof, and waterproof. If your journaling is done on the same page as photos, the ink should also pass the PAT.
What should I look for in a page protector?
Look for polypropylene pages. Avoid PVC like the plague. PVC can ooze plasticizer onto the surface of the photograph. Plasticizer is an oily substance, and it is difficult if not impossible to remove. Theoretically, PVC can emit hydrochloric acid as it breaks down, though we don't know of any definitive research. The time frame for these sorts of damage to occur is variable depending on the chemical make up of each sheet of plastic and the environmental conditions it has been subjected to during its lifetime.
Is it good to laminate or seal things in plastic bags to keep them safe from airborne pollutants and high humidity?
In general, it’s not a good idea to seal memorabilia in bags. For most storage environments, sealing items in bags only traps the harmful gases being emitted by the items themselves. This can accelerate decay! Plastic page protectors are safe because they are open on one end. Plastic storage bags and boxes are safe for photo print storage but not long-term negative, slide, home movies, or newsprint storage. For negative, home movies, and newsprint storage, use acid-free, lignin-free, paperboard boxes that have passed the PAT. Use polypropylene slides pages in binders for slide collections.
Which plastics will stick to photos over time?
The tendency for photos to stick to plastics is more a function of the photograph than the plastic. The photo’s gelatin coating gets softened at elevated temperature and humidity combinations. Gelatin can then act like glue. Because the problem is heat and humidity there will probably be little difference between polypropylene and polyester. The trick is to keep things cool and dry. Of course, PVC should never be used.
What should I use to glue or adhere my photos to the page?
The answer to this is partly dependent on what is being adhered to what. Not all adhesives and/or glues are good for every material or surface. Most modern photographs, though, are made on polyethylene-coated papers. For these, acrylic adhesives may work best. Of course, many preservation experts will say not to apply adhesive directly to your photo, but to use photo corners. All adhesives used should have passed the Photographic Activity Test. And never use rubber/latex adhesives. (Note: there is a special
brochure on adhesives at the SPS website)
How can I safely use stickers in my scrapbook?
In a way stickers can be seen as tapes with pictures, so the same tips for tapes will apply to stickers. You want to have a sticker that passes the PAT or photo activity test to make sure it won’t harm your photos. You won’t want to put a sticker on any memorabilia like children’s artwork (unless they put it there when they made it!) or newsprint. You will likely never be able to get it off without ruining the object. Finally, use stickers with acrylic adhesives never use adhesives with latex/rubber.
How can I safely use embellishments in my scrapbook?
"Embellishments" is a term encompassing a broad variety of materials from metal wires and eyelets to plastic buttons to pressed flowers. There is no way to discuss them in general ways as a class. The truth is that many may prove harmful in the long run such as reacting with photos, adding stress to the album spine, or scratching or indenting items on opposite pages. It will be left up to the individual what sort of risk they want to take in order to achieve a creative effect. (Note: there is a special
brochure on embellishments at the SPS website)
How can I safely use fabrics in my scrapbook?
For fabrics, follow the same considerations for embellishments discussed above. (Note: fabrics are covered in the special
brochure on embellishments at the SPS website)
What is ASTM D4236 mean?
Does it mean the product is acid-free or archival? The ASTM D4236 designation means that the product is labeled in accordance with all state and federal laws regarding toxicity. This standard has no relevance to scrapbook preservation.
Does the AP in the seal AP - Certified by the Arts and Crafts Materials Institute [ACMI] mean "Archival Product"?
As with ASTM D4236, this seal pertains to the product health safety issues. The seal is described on the ACMI website as "The new AP (Approved Product) Seal, with or without Performance Certification, identifies art materials that are safe and that are certified in a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems."
What questions should I ask my retailer or supplier to ensure that a product is safe for preservation scrapbooking?
That depends on the product. The answer for adhesives won’t be the same as for papers and won’t be the same as for eyelets as for pressed flowers.
Papers - lignin-free, neutral sized, buffered, passes PAT
Plastics - PVC free, non cellulose (acetate or nitrate), preferably polypropylene, polyester, or polyethylene, passes PAT
Adhesives - passes PAT, no latex/rubber
Inks - pigment, fade-proof, waterproof, bleed-proof, lightfast, passes PAT
Embellishments - the questions to ask at this time are unknown—everyone must decide for her/himself if they are willing to risk using embellishments that one day may prove harmful to their photos and scrapbook creations
Should I use a box, slip cover, or slip case
to store my scrapbooks?
Any of these can add a layer of physical protection to
your scrapbooks. They will also reduce the amount of dust that
can settle onto or into your album. Boxes or slip cases can
also enable you to store your albums horizontally; as they
reduce the amount of pressure the album could be subjected to.
Any container you use should be made from acid free, lignin
free card stock or board and been tested with the PAT to be
photo safe. Please keep in mind the storage box may be a plain
color or just plain brown and that is on purpose so the colors
won't bleed if it gets wet. The box, slip case, or slip cover
shouldn’t be too tight, so the album can breathe. You don't
ever want to completely seal your scrapbook in any container
because that can cause your scrapbook to age faster.
Should I store my albums flat or upright?
Unless you put them in a sturdy box, your scrapbooks should
always be kept on end and not lying flat. This will keep a
minimum of pressure on the face of any photographs and also
prevent any lumpy objects in the book from making impressions
on other items on other pages.
live in a humid area. How can I prevent mold? I already have
some items that are old and molded. Can these be cleaned?
These items are one of a kind and hand made. I don’t want to
copy them and throw the originals out.
Mold and mildew are very hard to remove entirely. They are
activated by heat and humidity (mostly humidity), so the best
approach is to preventing mold is to store your memorabilia in
a cool dry area. As for cleaning your materials, if the
materials are valuable enough, I recommend contacting the
American Institute for Conservation at http://aic.stanford.edu
for a local conservator or conservation center. Also, look in
this website’s section “Articles”. There is an entire article
on how to deal with mold.
asked my photo-processing lab if the plastic sleeves my
negatives come in are o.k. and they say yes (but I doubt they
are truly going to tell me otherwise). However, no one seems
to be able to tell me what the plastic sleeves are made of. Is
it safe to keep them in there or do I have to spend the money
for special negative sleeves?
The negative sleeves should be safe if they are polypropylene
or polyethylene. As with all your memorabilia, your negatives
should be stored in a cool, dry environment. Negatives are
especially sensitive to high humidity for two reasons. First,
high humidity can sometimes make the plastic stick to the
negative. Secondly, negatives can become very acidic at high
humidity and destroy the image.
pencil lead okay or will it leave acid on the page or photo?
What about the eraser used to erase the marks?
Pencil marking should be fine in scrapbooking. It has been
used by professional conservators for years. As for erasers, I
would use the white plastic type (either polypropylene or PVC
– it’s OK here!) rather than a rubber one (like the pink ones
on a pencil). Rubber contains many compounds harmful to
Hello, I have my great, great, great uncle’s Civil War
discharge papers and quite a few other very old and important
papers. Some of these are 100 to 150 years old. What steps
should I take to preserve them? Should I just store them in
binders with archival base paper? All the research I come
across seems to only deal with pictures.
These items are not only of value to you but they may be of
historical and cultural value to us all. This is a great piece
of American history. Unfortunately, it is not possible to give
generic advice on conservation for very old objects of unknown
composition and condition such as yours. For this reason, I
would suggest is that you contact a professional conservator
in your area. You might find one by contacting your local
library or historical society. You can also check on the web
for professionals in your area by following the link to the
American Institute of Conservation at
sort of plastics are safe for scrapbooks?
The International Standards Organization (ISO) standard for
photo filing enclosures (ISO 18902) suggests polypropylene
(PP), polyethylene (PE), or polyester (PET), but even these
must be tested with the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) to
determine if they have chemical alterations, additives, or
coatings that might be harmful to photographic materials. That
standard also states not to use polyvinyl chloride (PVC),
acetate, or nitrate containing plastics. These can emit
plasticizers, acids, and oxidizing gases that will harm photos
and many others scrapbook components. Other plastics, not
mentioned above, should be used with caution and always tested
with the PAT first.
manufacturer told me that their PVC has passed the
Photographic Activity Test (PAT) and is safe. Can this be
It’s true that PVC often doesn’t fail the PAT, but that
doesn’t mean it’s safe. This is because many PVC products
contain oily plasticizers that can ooze out onto your photos
over time, and the PAT doesn’t test for that. The PAT is used
to determine if a material will fade or stain photos
bought hanging pocket files to organize my photos before I put
them into scrapbooks. The files are open at the top and do
allow from some air circulation. It may be two or three years
before I get all the pictures into scrapbooks. Is it unsafe to
store them in this manner? I doubt the file folders are made
of acid free paper.
It is not possible to predict if there will be any degradation
to your photos from the hanging file without doing special
testing (which is very expensive). Degradation is additive
though. So just because you can't see slight fading or
yellowing doesn't mean it hasn't started. After 2-3 years in
the folder with no apparent damage; unseen harmful reactions
will still be reducing the image's overall life span. Instead
of lasting 30 it may last 20 years.
have seen magnetic albums advertised as “photo-safe,
acid-free” in stores are they safe?
Historically, as you know, these types of albums have not
performed well over time. They turned yellow, stained photos,
and the adhesive lost its tack. SPS does not recommend against
(or even for) an entire class of products. Some companies have
been working hard to make a safe "magnetic" album. Whether
they have succeeded remains to be seen.
heard of something called the PAT test. Is it something I can
do to determine if a product really is photo-safe as the
If you go to the terms and definitions section of this website
you will find that the PAT is a standard test that checks to
see if items are safe for use in and around photos and
negatives. Unfortunately for consumers, it is a very
specialized test that can only be performed at professional
testing facilities and as such can be very costly. That is why
we recommend that people check to see if the manufacturer of
the product has had the PAT performed for those products. You
might also want to check the date of testing to make sure it’s
been tested in the last few years. Product formulas change,
but manufacturers don’t always retest.
can you tell me about wallpaper samples and are they safe to
use for scrapbooking. I know there is some kind of glue or
something (not sure what) on the backs of some of the sheets
and not others.
You mention the adhesive on the back of the wallpaper. That
alone is a red flag because it is probably water soluble, so
if it comes around heat and humidity it may leach chemicals
into the scrapbook page and affect the photos. Even those
samples that don't have adhesive on them can not be trusted.
Often the inks used in printing contain materials that can
harm photos and negatives. Because of this many ink
manufacturers have approved inks for use in photo safe
applications. Wallpaper in particular is very cost sensitive
and I doubt very much that they used all photo safe inks. The
paper the wallpaper is made from may also contains chemicals
you don't want in your scrapbook. The scrapbook pages and
decorative papers that you buy should be not only photo safe,
but also acid-free and lignin-free to give you the greatest
longevity for the paper itself. Paper ages faster if it
contains acid and lignin. I also suspect that the wallpaper
may have preservatives and moisture stabilizers, but these are
to protect the wallpaper during application and while it is on
the wall. These same materials could cause damage to your
What's the SPS mission?
The SPS mission is to collect, review, organize, and distribute science-based preservation information to the scrapbook community through the publication of preservation guidelines, informational articles, and technical papers, and through the presentation of educational programs.
Where did SPS come from?
The founding members of the Scrapbook Preservation Society met together for the first time at the Great American Scrapbook Convention in June of 1999. We started as an ad hoc committee and originally called ourselves the Scrapbook Technical Committee. Our common interest at the time was to study the potential for preservation standards for our industry. In February of 2002 the Scrapbook Technical Committee changed our name to the Scrapbook Preservation Society. While preservation is still the focus, SPS has shifted away from creating formal standards toward an emphasis on developing a common preservation language and providing preservation education. The reasons for this are two-fold. The first is that not all classes of products are yet represented in our group, and it would be unfair to develop standards that did not include input from all affected parties. Secondly, the shear number of scrapbooking products and practices have lead us to believe that the years it would take to develop standards would not produce as positive and immediate an impact as simply sharing what we know now with you now.
What makes SPS special?
SPS is unique in many ways, but the most obvious is in our diversity. Our participants come from all aspects of the trade. We have among us manufacturers, educators, scientists, publishers, and retailers. It's this combination of skills and backgrounds that help us create the most accurate, up-to-date, and effective information on scrapbook preservation. Our diversity also eliminates bias. The information we create won't ever be veiled advertisements for any product, store, or company. Some of us are even direct competitors in the market!
What's the SPS audience?
While SPS sees the value of providing preservation information to everyone in the scrapbooking community (both trade and consumers), we feel that currently we can be the most productive by focusing our efforts toward the trade. We believe that for every educated manufacturer there will come hundreds of educated retailers
and for every educated retailer there will come hundreds of educated consumers.
Who are the SPS members?
There are no SPS members, only SPS
participants. We are all volunteers. We pay no dues nor receive money for our work. We liken our group less to a trade association and more to a community action group. Like a group of neighbors rolling up their sleeves to plant a garden and beautify the block, we are rolling up our sleeves to make our scrapbooks last, to make scrapbooking last.