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Guide to the Schomburg Center's Photographs and Prints Division: FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have any advice for caring for and preserving family photographs? 

Yes! Please view this PDF with suggestions and resources on preserving photographs. A link to download the PDF can also be found at the bottom of this page. 

Do you have suggestions on how to digitize family photographs?

Most photographs can be safely scanned at home on any flatbed scanner without risk of damage. Flatbed scanners are affordable, and usually come with software that allows for adjustments, including color, contrast, and resolution.

While at-home scanning is approachable, you may find it preferable to go the commercial route. The cheapest option would be to find a store with a photo counter and photographic developing services -- for example, drugstores and department stores (typically larger, national chains). The photo counters of such stores often digitize slides and negatives, as well as prints.

If your photographs are particularly fragile or require special handling, you might need to contact a company specializing in archival photograph digitization.

An  important piece of advice to consider is that after your photos have been scanned, you should not throw them away. While digital files can easily be lost or corrupted, physical media can always be rescanned as long as they are adequately preserved. See the above PDF for detailed suggestions on how to physically care for your photographs. In short, they should be housed in archival photo boxes, and photo prints should be individually stored in acid-free paper or Mylar. 

(Suggestions courtesy of Rebecca Wack, Assistant Director of Digital Imaging at NYPL)