A blue plate with five doughnuts on tissue: chocolate glazed, cake with pink icing and colored sprinkles, cake with white glaze, maple glaze, and sprinkled powdered sugar.

A Little Bit of Everything

I do like projects with variety.  One recently completed photo organization project offered plenty:

  • 1,200 prints (including 4×6, panoramic, 8×10, wallet, and other sizes)
  • 175 loose negative strips
  • 3 CDs with mystery images
  • 70 prints stuck to each other (also a mystery)
  • 200 prints stuck to film in an album
  • 3 Kodak Advantix film canisters with more mystery images

The starting point

The client delivered everything to me in a six-drawer plastic cabinet.  She had categorized the images into 20 or 30 groups.  This was helpful, as it gave me a sense for the significant events over the past 20 years.  The negatives were not organized, except that some were in plastic sleeves.  There were also some mystery items, as noted above.

A six-drawer plastic cabinet with clear drawers. Plastic bags and various items are visible through the drawers. A maroon album is placed on top of the cabinet.

The prints, negatives, and other materials were originally stored in a six-drawer cabinet and a 50-page album.

The client was interested in digitizing her negatives and printed photos eventually, but she wanted to begin with organizing what she had in the cabinet.  This was a good approach.  Photo organizers recommend three copies, on a variety of media, to guard against different hazards (Digital Preservation: 3 Copies).  Hard copy (negative strips, printed photos) are one legitimate copy.  Digitization isn’t about replacing your hard copy prints, it is about storing them in a complementary format.

Previous posts address how I tackled the prints stuck to stuff as well as how to view negatives so that they can be organized with any associated prints.

Archival storage materials

After assessing the quantities, I determined that everything would fit into two archival boxes.  One of the boxes would accommodate wallet, 4×6, and 5×7 prints.  The other box would accommodate larger items, including 8×10 school portrait prints, diplomas, a preschool notebook, and a high school yearbook.

The box for the prints included compartments and dividers; it was very nice that it accommodated prints up to 5×7.  Negative folders were used to group the negatives after they were sorted and to label them with the corresponding dividers.  Archival envelopes were used for sub-groups behind some dividers.



The second box held several archival velcro folders as well as a long compartment for the panoramic prints.  Archival organizing materials used for this box included:

  • polyethylene bags
  • manilla folders (archival grade card stock)
  • archival tissue (to place between prints when the backs are sticky)



Mystery images

For the CDs and the negatives strips, I viewed the images and matched them to any existing prints.  Some prints were missing, so I created contact sheets.  The contact sheets  will provide the client with a record of all of the images and help her determine if there are any images that she wants to print at a future date.  The mystery images yielded some gems – memories that the client had last viewed up to two decades ago.

The final product

All of the items in the six-drawer file cabinet (plus a loose album and notebook) were organized into two 13.5 x 16.0 x 6.0″ archival boxes.  The first box held all prints (except panoramics and school portraits), organized by year; the second box held larger prints and other memorabilia.

Two boxes are stacked on a high stool. The boxes have tan lids and black bottoms. They are each 13.5 x 16 x 6". The labels on the front of each box state Box 1 or Box 2.

Box 1 and Box 2, completed for the client.

The client was pleased with the result, commenting:

“So happy with the packaging of the pictures.  Can’t wait to get home and look at them.” 

~ F. K. in Glen Allen, VA (February 2, 2018)

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