Motion Picture Film Guidance: Storing Motion Picture Film

What Is The Best Environment To Store Materials In?

Based on NARA 1571, the ideal temperature for storing modern, polyester, black and white films is 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Black and white acetate-base film (generally pre-1970) should be kept at 35 degrees Fahrenheit. To slow fading, all color films can be stored at 35 degrees Fahrenheit, although it is common practice to store color film at 25 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. All films are best stored in a 35% +/- 5% relative humidity environment.

For optimal storage, 16mm, 35mm, and 70mm films should be wound onto chemically inert, polypropylene film cores. 8mm films may be wound onto reels for easier handling. Films should then be placed in chemically inert, polypropylene film containers. Archival film containers promote air circulation and protect against dust, water, and sunlight. Metal reels and containers should be avoided, as the possibility of rust may damage the film, and the lack of airflow will encourage further degradation. Film containers should be stacked horizontally, to provide even pressure on both films and cores. Vertical storage may break the cores and cause the films to warp over time.

In the absence of ideal storage conditions, films can still survive for decades as long as they are kept in a stable environment that is not too hot, too dry, or too wet. Find an area with stable low temperatures, low humidity, and protection from flooding, air pollutants, and sunlight. A closet or cabinet on the main floor of a building is often the best choice. A film stored there will fare much better than a film stored in a basement or attic with extreme fluctuations in temperature or humidity.

Avoid storing your motion picture film in a non-climate-controlled basement or on the floor where water, insects, or rodents might damage it. A damp environment may accelerate conditions such as vinegar syndrome or encourage mold growth on the film. Insects and rodents may eat film emulsion.

Where can I find more information?