Who has a box of unlabeled photographs at home? Identifying the subject(s) of photographs enhances their long-term use, value and enjoyment. If at all possible, sit down today and just do it! However, labeling must be done with care to avoid damaging the photographs.
Here are a few guidelines from the Cornell University’s “Preserving Your Family Photographs” brochure:
1) When possible label the enclosure rather than the photograph.
2) If photographs must be directly labeled, write only on the back of the photograph, keeping notations small and confined along one edge.
3) Use a hard, clean surface underneath the photograph while labeling and use light pressure to avoid embossing the photograph.
· Soft graphite pencil (like 2B) is recommended because it is harmless to photographs, will not fade, and is not water-soluble.
· India ink in a technical pen, film-marking pens, or blue photo pencils (which pass the Photo Activity Test (PAT) and are available from the preservation supply companies) may be used to label the back edge of contemporary color prints, which are resin-coated (RC prints).
· Always allow ink to dry before stacking photographs together.
· Ball point pens and Magic Markers are not recommended since they can fade, migrate through and stain the photographs, offset onto adjacent photographs, and bleed if exposed to water.
Read the brochure online at http://www.library.cornell.edu/preservation/brochure/Family%20Photos%20Text%2001.pdf.