Storage & Retrival Methods for Negatives : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

I have a query (& problem) which I donít believe I have seen addressed in this forum before.

Iíd like to know about what effective but simple retrieval systems or retrieval methods others have successfully implemented to catalogue, store and locate negatives of particular subjects taken at particular times. In other words, what improvements are there on the proverbial olí shoe box method of storing negative sheets(and its many variations) to get things under control?

I apologise if I havenít posted this to the right forum, but itís a logical follow up to what we do after we process our films, and it appears more relevant to this forum than the others.

Many thanks in advance.

-- Frank Alvaro (, August 31, 2001


Try filing slides and negatives chronologically and keeping subject-matter lists of the codes identifying the individual slides and negatives. This is like the card catalog in a library and can be as complex as you wish. Computer users probably can use a data-base program for this.

-- Keith Nichols (, August 31, 2001.

I store my 35mm negatives in the type of sheets that hold a full 36 exp. roll. Most brands I have seen allow for notes to written on the sheet. I make a contact sheet of each page on 81/2" X 11" and store the negatives and their corresponding archivally processed contact sheets in a purpose made binder. BTW I prefer the "top loading" style of neg holder. I have fund that the end loding type can create scratches on the neg. Just make sure you don't use vinyl, it will eventually destroy the negs. I am presently using the horizontal top loading neg sheets and archival binder from Franklin Industries.(Aparently the Smithsonian uses this brand so they must be doing something right. I will post their website if anyone is interested. I don't have this info at hand right now.) In addition to the proof sheets I number each page of negs and have a table of contents at the beginning of each book with a brief discription of each frame.

-- Robert Orofino (, August 31, 2001.

Just like keith says, it can be as simple or complex as you want. You can create different fields for specific topics, and codes within those fields, or just file them chronologically. I would suggest sticking with a simple system to begin with, especially if you have alot of images. This way you won't be trapped into a complex system down the road...we use a filing system that is broken up into accession numbers for images of items (artifacts--this is a museum), and then a date/type of event code for roll film. The slides are another story as well. An example of the roll film code is for an exhibit related shot: E201-0904-1(20). This would be E (exhibits) 201 (year 2001) 0904 (date) 1 (first roll) 20 (frame number). This number is placed on the back of all prints made of this neg, the base number goes on the enclosure for the roll, and on the corresponding contact sheet.

All roll films are kept in top-loading Mylar D or uncoated polypropylene sleeves, and put in buffered/acid free enclosures, in baked enamel neg file cabinets . The sheet films are in a similar arrangement, with unbuffered enclosures used for any color. The slides are kept in single mylar D sleeves in top loading polypropylene pages kept in hanging files....the contacts go into a buffered envelope and baked enamel file cabinets as well....all in a room to themselves, with a rH/temp monitoring unit.

FWIW, I believe the Smithsonian uses a similar system using L-velope sleeves made of Mylar D as well, although I'm not 100% positive of this. The Saf-T-Stor slide pages that Franklin makes, have long been used by institutions for long term slide storage. The design of the page is such that the slide snaps into the page and is open on the face. Each page stacks into the other & protects the's not really a system for constant access. We use these in some of our long term files.

Perma-Saf pages are a Franklin product, I think, and are carried by many vendors like Gaylord Bros. etc. We use some of these for slide storage as well, but use individual sleeves for each slide (made of Mylar D) and insert them into the Perma-Saf page, for added protection.

The "gold standard" for safe materials and neg/print enclosures is the PAT test. The Photographic Activity Test. This is an ANSI/ISO test for the reactivity of a material against a type of photograph. When you're shopping for enclosures (paper or plastic) look for those words. It's mostly used for paper items, but still applies for plastic as well. The best thing to remember is to keep your prints & negs, cool & dry. keep airborne pollutants to a minimum, don't store your stuff in any wood products, or plastic laminates. Keep away from oil based paints, peroxides etc., including auto exhaust, new carpets & office furniture gassing off formaldehyde, etc. and keep the RH down. If it gets above 60%, mold can become a problem, and humidity can also wreak havoc with plastic sleeves and negs as well....if the RH ever approaches 80%, then consider using paper enclosures. Avoid glasseine products. If you use a paper sleeve, place the film in it so the emulsion is facing away from any adhesive seams. You may get by using a pH pen to test envelopes for acidity as well, some high quality office supply envelopes are good enough for casual use. "Safe" plastics are considered to be Uncoated Polyester (Mylar D), Uncoated Polypropylene, and uncoated Polyethylene. The tricky part comes in finding a sleeve that doesn't have any additives put in during manufacturing processes.

Depending on where you're at (Australia??), you can sometimes get advice from state archives etc., about these topics. Good luck, filing is a never ending chore....

-- DK Thompson (, September 04, 2001.

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