Negatives in the fridge? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have a quite substantial body of MF and a growing body of LF negatives, stored in clearfile plastic sleeves, inside the usual plastic boxes. Summers in New Jersey can be quite warm and humid, and I am a little concerned about my negative's longevity. Would it be a good idea to store them in a waterproof box inside a refrigerator? Does anybody experience any troubles with this method? Or with printing from a negative after, let's say, 15 years in the fridge?

-- Marcus Leonard (, May 12, 2002


Marcus, once the film has been developed, fixed, and properly washed, there is no need for refrigeration. In fact, if moisture is allowed to condense on the film, it could cause damage. Store your negs in archival envelopes, or sleeves. Keep them in a dark, dry place in an archival storage box, and don't subject them to excessive heat. If the temperature is comfortable for you, it will be OK for your negs. The waterproof box idea makes sense, but you would need to bring the negs back to room temp. before opening it or you'll risk condensation that may ruin the film.

-- Eugene (, May 12, 2002.

This is quite indirectly related to the original question, but thought I would mention it. Brett Weston stored his negatives in old refrigerators. I don't think the refrigerators worked or were plugged in, they just seemed liked sturdy protective storage containers that might withstand a natural disaster.

-- John McDonald (, May 12, 2002.

You might want to do some research on this, as you could be opening yourself up to a whole can of worms if you aren't careful. Storage standards for colour and black and white are different, and you don't mention which you are storing. However, for black and white, the basic standard (without checking my books at work) is in a constant 20c at 40% RH with no cycling of either - ie not hot/cold dry/humid. Which is your problem.

Now, your fridge probably has higher humdity than the humidity outside and over time, a "watertight" box probably isn't actually water and moisture tight - and you will also trap any existing moisture in there as you can't vacuum seal it. The way you would store negs in a fridge would need to be in vacuum sealed foil packets (which is what we do for nitrate negs in a freezer). Even then, I'm not sure there is a lot of point in keeping them in a fridge.

Your best bet would be to read up in a booklet/book on the care and preservation of photographic materials, put out by someone like the Library of Congress - there are a bunch out there (the Canadian Conservation Institute puts out some good pamplets on this). And maybe call your local museum and talk to the Conservator. But basically, talk to soemone who knows what they are talking about. Ohterwise, you may well do more harm than good.

Here's somwhere to start

A standard for color materials is The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs. by Wilhelm, Henry tim a

-- Tim Atherton (, May 12, 2002.

Fridges are notoriously damp places that promote growth of all kinds of fungi. Even in a moisture proof package I think you would be asking for trouble. For long term storage in the fridge, you would need a package that will remain moisture proof for years, which would be a difficult thing to find if you intend to open the package to remove negs you want to print.


-- Doug Paramore (, May 13, 2002.

Nonsense, refrigeraters are generally very dry. The problem is the humidity you will bring in the plastic bag from the outside. Just squeeze all the air that you can out of the package and be sure that it's tightly sealed. There are some compartments with added humidity for storing veggies -- don't use them.

-- Willhelmn (, May 13, 2002.

I haven't seen "a very dry" fridge in my life-time yet... Just the opposite - as soon as you open them, the humidity of the air outside goes happily inside... Even the small amount of the humidity in the package (the waterproof box) is enough for fungus to thrive. I know - I have kept some sheet film in my fridge for several years in a box I believed tight enough and the film was ruined - by fungus...

-- george jiri loun (, May 13, 2002.

OK guys, the answer is: *frost-free* refrigerators, when working properly, have low humidity in the main refrigerator compartment. Freezer compartment humidity is high. Don't take my word for it; see Wilhelm's book "The Preservation and Care of Color Photographs." Should you wish to store color negatives or transparencies this way, and you place them in ziploc bags (double bagging is preferable), the small amount of moisture that condenses on the outside of the bags when opening the door in humid weather will be of no consequence. As soon as the compressor cycles on again it will dry off the bags, never permitting condensation to form inside them. So says Henry Wilhelm. I wouldn't bother going through this for black and white negatives unless you fancy yourself the next Ansel Adams and think the world couldn't live without your work. Otherwise, properly stored black and white negatives (even those based on acetate, which eventually "vinegar") will outlast you and several generations of your decendents.

-- Sal Santamaura (, May 13, 2002.

Another, perhaps even more important, reason for storing negatives/slides in the fridge is that in case of minor (not major) house fires, it's probably the safest place for them.

-- Willhelmn (wmitch3400@hotmail.copm), May 13, 2002.

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