If you’re a film history nerd, you’re probably looking for every chance you can to get your hands on some old film reels. Before you start looking for old 8mm reels, you need to figure out where and how you’re going to store them in your home. Film is one of the most sensitive forms of media, and it requires expert handling and protection in order to stay safe. Research the ways to store and protect your old film reels before you accidentally do something to damage them.
Dry and Cool Environment
Moisture and heat-warping are some of the biggest killers of old film. You may notice improper care on smaller pieces of film—such as strips of photo negatives—after they’ve been stored incorrectly for a long time. While these aren’t the same, they provide a valuable example of how careful you need to be with your older film reels. For perfect film preservation, place it in a dark area at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit with between 40 to 50 percent humidity.
Experts in the film industry use freezers and refrigerators to store film. As long as you can control the humidity and temperature of the refrigerator and don’t store food in it, you can use any basic fridge for film storage.
It should go without saying that light and film don’t mix too well together. Sun damages film irreparably, both with its light and heat elements. Wherever you store the film, make sure you keep it out of sunlight at all times during the day.
No Airtight Containers
When film can’t breathe, it will become damaged by the slight amount of gas that it emits. To avoid film deterioration and damage, don’t store film reels in plastic bags or airtight containers. If you store them in their reels or cans, make sure to remove any rubber. When rubber degrades, it may leave residue on the film and damage it.
Back Up Film Digitally
The best way to ensure film isn’t lost even if the physical form deteriorates is by digitizing it. Converting your film to digital formats is best left to the experts to avoid damage. Check with a film conversion company to learn which kinds of film you can digitize, then carefully send in your reels. When handling your film, wear gloves that won’t leave behind any residue. If you must touch the film itself, make sure you only touch the edges. When respooling, ensure the film lays flat as you wind it back up.
We all have to start somewhere when deciding to collect old film. Avoid tragedy with the knowledge of ways to store and protect your old film reels, and you’ll evolve from a film nerd to a film historian in no time.