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Long-term processed film storage


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#1 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 01 June 2006 - 06:36 PM

After reading the Kodak tech bulletins and searching this site, I still have a few questions about long-term storage of processed film. I’d like to find the best archival option for preserving the processed image as long as possible—maybe as long as 50 years or more. There is a lot of information about things like temperature and humidity, but not much specifically about what type of container the film should actually be stored in.

Here’s my first question: Is there any problem with storing film long-term (more than a couple of years) in the typical cardboard box/plastic bag combination that the lab supplies after processing? I believe non-acidic papers are recommended for long-term storage of still photo prints and negatives, and that certain types of plastic (PVC-based) can eventually be harmful to film. No one I spoke to at the lab seems to know the makeup of the plastic bags they use or if the paper used for the film box is non-acidic.

I spoke to some people at an editorial supply house about other options. They sell two types of cans for film storage. The first is the old-school metal type that has a baked-on gray paint finish. It is heavier than the typical Kodak raw stock can and looks quite durable. The second type is made from archival plastic. It seems reasonably strong and is less expensive than the metal by about 40-percent. (I’m not that concerned about the cost since the whole point is to protect an irreplaceable negative.) I’m wondering why some people elect to use the more-expensive metal storage cans instead of the archival plastic cans. The salesman didn’t have an opinion on this except to say that some of his clients insist on metal. He never asked them why. A search of the manufacturer's website didn't reveal anything other than ordering and price info.

Any thoughts are appreciated.
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#2 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 10:45 PM

After reading the Kodak tech bulletins and searching this site, I still have a few questions about long-term storage of processed film. I?d like to find the best archival option for preserving the processed image as long as possible?maybe as long as 50 years or more. There is a lot of information about things like temperature and humidity, but not much specifically about what type of container the film should actually be stored in.

Here?s my first question: Is there any problem with storing film long-term (more than a couple of years) in the typical cardboard box/plastic bag combination that the lab supplies after processing? I believe non-acidic papers are recommended for long-term storage of still photo prints and negatives, and that certain types of plastic (PVC-based) can eventually be harmful to film. No one I spoke to at the lab seems to know the makeup of the plastic bags they use or if the paper used for the film box is non-acidic.


This is an area where new things are being found all the time, and the advice is sometimes mutualy incompatible!

The two risks are fading and base deteriorization. Most Negative is on acetate base. If you are unlucky it will start to break down with "Vinigar Syndrome" The old metal cans are suspected of acting as a catalist. The new Kodak Cans have a plastic coating to seal away the metal. Their is a outfit in Denmark called DANCAN http://www.dancan.dk/ who meakes special cans out of Polypropoline taht are suposed to sidestep this posibility. They also have a polypropoline cores, all made in blue color to make them easy to spot. I understand that the current Kodak Cores are also Polypropoline these days. (I have some with PP in the recycle symbol )

The related risk is that the breakdown is autocatylitic, so Good Ventalation is required to keep the byproduicts from speeding the breakdown. DANCAN and others have vented cans. They also have a special punch to make vent holes in the metal cans.

Perhaps you can find a suplier who stocks simalr products , DanCan only sells in big lots.

The alternative is the cans must be sealed (see below) is to use Molecular Sieves which are made by Kodak, and adsorb the gases and extra mosture.

Why seal the cans? Becasue the colour dyes may change, and so COLD storage is recomended for long term storage of colour film. If you freeze film, you have ot pervent condensation when you bring it out, and that requires that the can be sealed!

Of course the film must be relativly dry if you freese it.

I would shun the paper at all costs, The thrid risk to film is something called RE-DOx blemishes, it happens in Black and whit efilm particularly Microfilm and is associated with cardboard boxes. Years ago at work we had to toss out entire collection of carboard boxes, and use Kodak Storage boxes (The same as 16mm 100 ft spools of Movie film come in, and genuine Kodak return reels. (Some of the ones that the lab had used also were impleicate din the redox problem.- The them selves had broken down and gotten brittle)

In that project we had to use special plastic labels on the boxes, and we were not allowed ot resuse the boxes that Kodak shipped the film in as you could not remove the orignial label.

So some data points, not facts. I would try to use either the Kodak Coated cans, Kodak or fuji cores, (the current white plactic ones) and posibly the kodak seives. Kepping everything in a cool air conditioned place or the frezer.

I would get some of the vinigar test strips and freeze any film that showed signs. If the material is valuable you might also want to consult the NARA.gov, Archives.ca, or the Australian Archives. for advice.
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#3 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 02 June 2006 - 11:16 PM

Thanks for all the info, Charles--it's very helpful.

Earlier today I spoke to Rosa at the UCLA Film Archives. She said that processed film should not be stored long-term in cardboard boxes or in plastic bags. The cardboard may not be archival (acidic paper) and the plastic bags keep the "off-gasses" from migrating away from the film which speeds up deterioration. She recommended using archival plastic cans unless the film is nitrate based, in which case the archivies use metal (for safety). She explained that even though the metal cans are coated, gasses released from the film eventually react with the metal and cause rust-like rings to form inside the cans.

Rosa also said vented cans are beneficial if the storage room has adequate air circulation to carry off the gasses produced by the films, otherwise it's fine to use the non-vented type, but with more frequent inspection.

Again, thanks for taking the time to reply and all the great info.
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#4 dd3stp233

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 02:09 AM

Along this same thread, and I don't think it was mentioned above but what differences would the considerations for long term storage of polyester base film be? Would the can type and ventilation matter? or any of the other things mentioned specific to nitrate and acetate?
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#5 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 03 June 2006 - 02:33 PM

Along this same thread, and I don't think it was mentioned above but what differences would the considerations for long term storage of polyester base film be? Would the can type and ventilation matter? or any of the other things mentioned specific to nitrate and acetate?



Here's a link I was given by the UCLA Archivist for The Association of Moving Image Archivists: http://www.amianet.org/

I haven't looked at it much yet, but I think this group has answers to all of these questions.
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#6 John Pytlak RIP

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 11:07 AM

Generally, the best advice for long term film storage is "Cool, Dry, and Vented". SMPTE Recommended Practice RP131 specifies optimum film storage conditions.

If you decide to store film in sealed cans (because you do not have the proper low humidity in the storage area, or want additional protection from flooding), use Molecular Sieves inside each sealed can to maintain the proper low humidity "mini climate" inside the can, and adsorb any acid by-products the film releases.

Lots of information on the Kodak website:

http://www.kodak.com...1.4.15.12&lc=en
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#7 Charles MacDonald

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Posted 05 June 2006 - 08:19 PM

Along this same thread, and I don't think it was mentioned above but what differences would the considerations for long term storage of polyester base film be? Would the can type and ventilation matter? or any of the other things mentioned specific to nitrate and acetate?

So far - Polyester is considered to have a stable base. so you can concentrate on keeping the dyes from fading. B&W would still have to worry about the Re-dox Brawn spots, although they are more common on microfilm which has a VERY THIN enuslion. (although I have some on 16mm B&W prints. :< )
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#8 Dan Horstman

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 03:56 PM

You can get Archival Cans for storing film from Tuscan Corp.

Edited by Dan Horstman, 27 July 2006 - 03:57 PM.

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#9 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 01:14 AM

You can get Archival Cans for storing film from Tuscan Corp.


Thanks, Dan. I found the Tuscan Archival cans at Christy's Editorial in Burbank, CA: PH: 818/845-1755; http://www.christys.net. Very helpful people over there.

Thanks again to everyone for the suggestions and help.
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