Storage of 35mm slides in carousels

My mother kept hundreds of photo slides in carousels, which I have inherited. Each carousel holds numerous slides of one subject in plastic holders.  These holders keep the slides from touching each other.  The carousels fit into a projector, which allows them to be viewed on a screen.  The projector (which has since died) was able to move between slides through use of a remote control.  When a button on the "remote" was pressed, the projector would move between slides by ejecting one and dropping down the next. This process positioned a slide in front of the light source.  The "slide show" continued until the whole carousel had been viewed. Each carousel is still housed in a cardboard box that accompanied it when purchased.  The boxes have been, and continue to be, stored in a closet inside the house. They have been kept this way for 50+ years, with no damage that I can detect. 

Is this method of storing them sufficient to keep the slides from being damaged over the next hundred or so years?  If not, would you recommend removing them from the carousels?  If so, what alternative storage option would you recommend?

Any information you provide will be appreciated.

- Toni B.


Hi Toni - 

The first thing you'll have to think about is the arrangement of and access to the slides. Since they are currently stored in the carousels, there may be a natural order that should be maintained to preserve the context of the photographs. However, keeping the slides stored in the carousels may also be of some concern when considering access. If you would like to view the slides more easily and frequently, moving them into polypropylene "photo pages" could be an option. These typically hold 20 slides per page, and can then be stored in archival boxes or albums. When removing the slides from the carousel, be sure to handle by the paper or plastic frame edges, as a single fingerprint can damage the film. Once they are in the pages, directly handling will be greatly reduced. Again, consider their original order when rehousing and copy over any information to the new pages and/or boxes.

If you choose to keep the slides in the carousels, the exterior cardboard boxes should be exchanged for good quality, acid-free boxes. These will last longer and pose less of a risk to the overall lifespan of the slides. You can consult our list of selected vendors for preservation supplies located here: SELECTED VENDORS OF PRESERVATION SUPPLIES.pdf

Anything you can do to store the slides in a cool, dry environment with little exposure to light will help immensely in their long-term preservation. Keep them away from exterior walls in your home, which will fluctuate more in temperature and humidity. Environmental standards differ for certain types of media, so be sure to check out our standards here:

The Image Permanence Institute (IPI) also has some great resources for film-based materials like your slides. Their Storage Guide for Color Photographic Materials explains why color images fade, why they need special storage, and what can be done to increase their long-term viability. 

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