Presentation was an art form at the birth of the photograph. The final picture, a luxury at the time, was carefully placed in a presentation folio that could be an ornate as the picture itself. The idea of presenting pictures in such a fashion continued well into the digital era.
The sad state of these early presentation folio today is a state of decay. Many are tattered, torn and worn. These folios as beautiful as they are have reached their limit in many cases. The ones that have not reached their limit are likely not archival quality.
One of the great things the digital age has brought us is the ability to have archival papers, inks and all the acid free materials we could ever hope for. It is so prevalent we forget that acid free was ever really an issue. Archival is almost taken for granted now.
What about all of these historical pictures? I, personally can’t see destroying the old folios. This is what I can envision;
Preserve, carefully, the old ones while scanning and printing them. After printing put them in a new folio for viewing. Alternatively, re-locating where you can the historical picture to a new presentation folio. If desired you can keep the old folio with the new one so that you do not lose it but neither do more damage to it. I would advise scanning the folio to keep with the scanned print as well. Be aware there is some value to some of the folios.
No matter what you can envision for these you will want to make sure that if you do go with a new folio to get a nice quality one so that in 150 years more the same issues are not had. It is also not a bad idea to consider a high quality box to store all of these pictures in.
While no one really wants to disrupt history in any way, while we would prefer to leave them as they are there is a very real risk that they will continue to deteriorate past the point of recognition. If you have other thoughts I would love to have them shared with us. We will pass them along in an upcoming blog. This is a problem that belongs to all of us to solve. Even businesses are hiring companies to do this work for them. It is after all history.