Not ready to digitize yet? That's fine! In the meantime, take these easy steps to ensure your memories remain in good condition until you are ready to digitize. Doing so will preserve the contents of your items in the best possible condition.
1. Store all video tapes, films, photos, slides, and negatives in a cool, dry, place, away from possible floods.
Making sure your memories stay in a dry place is of paramount importance. Mold is the biggest killer of any type of video tapes, and if your tapes are left in a moist environment long enough, the mold will begin to seep in. This can be easily prevented by keeping your video tapes in a sealed container and somewhere that does not get too damp.
2. Store all photos, film, slides, and negatives in a dark place away from light.
For photos, film, slides, and negatives, the most important thing you can do is keep these in a container that prevents light from reaching them, especially sunlight. Prolonged exposure to light will fade any of these items, and making sure they are kept in the dark is the #1 thing you can do to preserve its quality.
3. If possible, keep all your memories in a sealed container, like a large tote container.
A sealed container is a much better storage option than a cardboard box. The main thing we are trying to prevent here is dust buildup. Dust buildup on video tapes, film, photos, and slides will be difficult to remove when the time comes to digitize, so it is better to keep them away from dust during storage.
4. Do not attempt to play any camcorder tapes in a compromised or old camcorder.
This may seem surprising but it is very important, especially for camcorder tapes. If you attempt to play a VHS tape in a VCR, there is a small risk that you can damage the internal parts of a tape or get it tangled. This can be prevented by doing a full cleaning of the VCR before playing your tape. On the other hand, trying to play a camcorder tape on a camcorder has some serious risks. If a camcorder is old, and has not been properly cleaned and maintained on a regular basis, the camcorder can "shed" the camcorder tape. What is scary about this is you might not even know it is happening, and here is what shedding means. When shedding occurs, the camcorder will play back the tape, and it may even look perfectly fine on your camcorder screen, however, if shedding is occurring, you will actually be shedding the material off of the tape as you are playing. For every second the tape is playing, that second may no longer be available to be viewed or digitized on that tape. This happens because the particulates used on the tape to store video and audio can degrade over time, and when degraded enough, can be shed off of the tape when played on a camcorder.
5. Prepare your memories for eventual digitization.
This last step will save you time when it comes to digitizing. Make sure all your tapes are properly labeled with short descriptions and include a date if possible. Additionally, make sure these labels are strongly affixed to the tapes. We always try to name the digitized files with any label that is affixed to the tape. Keep any cases that tapes are stored in, and keep any storage options for photos or slides. If your photos are in a photo album, remove them from the album prior to digitization. Leaving photos in a photo album for an extended period of time (many years) can make it impossible to remove later. This is a common cause of damage to photos when you try to remove them. So, consider digitizing your photos early and you can always put them back inside an album after they are digitized.
In the end, you should get all of your memories digitized at some point so you can truly preserve them forever. Digitizing is the only way to preserve them, and the sooner you digitize, the better quality you can expect.