How to Protect Tintype Photos

By Kylene Arnold
Store tintypes in acid and lignin-free archival materials.

The tintype was one of the earliest forms of commercial photography. Unlike the silver plated daguerreotypes, tintypes were photographs exposed onto common iron, which made them cheap enough for the common person to afford. The photographic process was also faster than that of daguerreotypes, causing this art form to peak in popularity from 1856 through the early 1900s. Some of these vintage photographs have survived for 150 years and should be handled with care to ensure that they remain for the next generation.

Handle them with lint-free cotton gloves at all times. The dirt and oils from your fingers can damage the photo over time.

Place photographs that are in excellent condition in an archival quality polypropylene sleeve.

Place flaking photographs between two pieces of archival quality paper or mats. Do not place them in a sleeve, as the static electricity that builds up between the plastic layers can accelerate the flaking process.

Store the tintypes in an archival quality box in a climate-controlled environment. The temperature should stay between 65 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Protect the photographs from moisture, which can rust the iron sheet. Ideally, the humidity should stay between 40 and 50 percent.

Create a high quality scan of each image before storing it. When you have a copy to refer to, you will disturb the original less often, prolonging the life of the tintype.

Tip

Use archival materials that are PAT (Photographic Activity Test) approved. These substances are the only ones guaranteed to be safe for your photographs.

About the Author

Kylene Arnold is a freelance writer who has written for a variety of print and online publications. She has acted as a copywriter and screenplay consultant for Advent Film Group and as a promotional writer for Cinnamom Bakery. She holds a Bachelor of Science in cinema and video production from Bob Jones University.