How should I store film?

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Category: Storage
Posted by Conservation Answers(Questions:33:Answers28)
Answered On 29 January, 2014 11:17 pm

Storage is the most important consideration for your films at home. They should be in a film container, preferably plastic, and kept in a dry place with minimum temperature and humidity fluctuations. The container will assist with keeping dust and other foreign matter from the film, and prevent unnecessarily rough handling.

Excellent storage for black and white film is a cool dry room (around 15°c-18°c) which maintains stable conditions throughout the year. To ensure your colour materials last for a similar period, temperatures of less than 8°c are recommended – a much more difficult and expensive option. In both cases, the drier and more stable the conditions, the better for the films (although a relative humidity below 15% can cause the emulsion to irreversibly dehydrate and become fragile).

Stored films should be wound onto a spool at moderate tension. The tension that a projector winds film is probably too tight in most instances. The ideal wind tension is when a film just holds itself together on the spool. Before projection the film should be rewound at a greater tension to prevent the film slipping against itself and causing small scratches as the projector pulls the film into the projection gate. If the film has to be transported, such as through the post, then the film should be wound to the same tension as for projection. This will prevent scratching if it is jostled during transport.

Water is a severe hazard to films and may destroy them completely, so films should be kept well away from places where a leak or overflow of water may occur. Remember that water is not always visible, as high humidity environments mean that there is a lot of water in the air which will accelerate the film’s deterioration, and even allow mould to grow. Unfortunately refrigerators are a high humidity environment.

Sometimes the boxes or cupboards used to store the films in may emit chemicals, used in the glue or manufacture of the construction material, which are detrimental to films. Cardboard boxes should be avoided, as should any space which smells strangely. The smells may be from chemicals which have an effect on the stability of your films. Avoid storing films with chemicals, such as cleaning products or paints.

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