You are very likely to have some sort of home movie, that material is in danger. Films, videotapes, and DVDs are fragile and decompose. This guide offers some simple steps you can take to make sure your media will last a lifetime and beyond.
Ideally, all of your media should be stored in a clean, cool, dry, dark environment. Excessive heat, humidity, and light will accelerate the deterioration of any media but destroys film and video. The top shelf of a closet, or under a bed in covered plastic totes work great. Avoid attics and garages, the temperature fluctuations in these types of places will destroy your media.
Storage in proper containers is one of the most basic and effective methods of protecting your film. Whenever possible, store your films in their original containers. If the original cans have been destroyed or damaged (for example, never store film in a rusty can), the best option is to replace them with new cans. If buying new film cans is not possible, a simple plastic bag is still better than nothing. Remember, dust and dirt that collects on your film can permanently scratch or otherwise damage the images.
When storing film, there are a few situations that warrant special attention.
Nitrate film stock was used for 35mm motion pictures from 1889 – 1951.
It is highly flammable and should be handled accordingly. If you suspect that you have nitrate film, store it in a cool place such as the freezer, and contact a film lab or museum archive to learn how to properly handle it. Do not try to project the film, and never smoke around it.
When acetate film stock begins to decay, it can release acetic acid. This condition is known as “vinegar syndrome,” and it can spread to all of the films in your collection. If you have films that smell like vinegar, they should be quarantined from the rest of the collection. Ideally, vinegar “infected” films should be kept far apart from “healthy” films, but quarantine can be as simple as sealing them in plastic bags.
Store Video Tapes upright in hard plastic cases, in a clean, cool and dry environment, away from direct sunlight, far from magnetic sources as possible.
Store DVDs upright in hard plastic cases, in a clean, cool and dry environment, away from direct sunlight.
As a general rule, all of your media should be handled as little as possible, with clean hands, and returned to its case or can immediately after use.
National Film and Preservation Foundation
The Film Preservation Guide
The Video History Project
“Video Preservation – The Basics”