Film & Video Preservation Tips
Film Preservation Methods
AMIPA regularly receives grants to fund preservation of films in its collections. What is meant by the term "preservation"? For film, this means making new film negatives and prints, and that can be a very expensive process. To begin with, we test all of the reels for signs of chemical decay, then put the films onto new cores and into new archival cans, made of special plastics that allow air to flow through the can, which keeps decay gases from building up and damaging the film. The film reels are then put back into storage in cabinets in our climate-controlled vault.  They are then transferred to professional-quality Betacam SP videotape for easier access to the images, then VHS duplicates are made of the Betacam SP tapes for use as viewing copies. 

The rules for preserving films in archives also hold true for the home movies you might have stored in your closets or basements. Chemically speaking, the two worst enemies of motion picture film are heat and water, because the combination of the two is what causes the dreaded "vinegar syndrome," so-named because of the distinct odor which degrading film gives off. Despite all of the advances in film and video technology in recent years, the most important step in film preservation is also the most basic: keeping them in a cool and dry place (this is good news for those of us in Alaska, of course).  If you haven't watched your films in a while (and most people haven't) running them through an old projector could do some irreparable harm to the films. Since VHS copies are generally easier to use for most home viewings, you might consider transferring your home movie films to video and keeping your films in storage, or consider donating them to AMIPA. 

Video Tape Is Not Forever...
In fact, the oxides that coat the plastic ribbons inside those home video cassettes you buy may start to flake off in as little as five years. Even professional quality video tape stored in perfect conditions can begin showing signs of deterioration in ten years, and by 15-20 years you are at the outside edge of their ability to deliver an image without disintegrating. In fact, you may have only  one playback pass left by that point! So, what is a home movie director to do?
Control the Temperature
Store your tapes in the coolest part of the house- 55 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal. Even if you do not have a place that cool, the most important thing to remember is that the tapes should be stored at a constant temperature with as little fluctuation as possible. Avoid storing near heaters, windows, or any place in the house that warms up to 75 degrees or more.
Avoid Dust and Dirt
Keep your cassettes in a cover. Plastic is best, but cardboard works too. Dust and debris can gunk up a tape quickly, not to mention what it does to your VCR.
Avoid Humidity

This is rarely an issue for most Alaskans because it is drier here. In general, a level of 50-percent humidity or lower, is acceptable. Of course, you want to keep your films and tapes away from any place where they could get wet. 

Store Video Vertically, Film Horizontally
Laying a video cassette on its long, flat side will eventually cause the bottom side of the tape to warp. Film, on the other hand, should be stored on reels and in cans and laid horizontally.
Rewind Your Tapes

Don't eject your tapes in the middle. VCR’s occasionally damage tapes during the loading and unloading process, as arms reach in and pull the tape around the heads of the VCR. Wind to either the beginning or end of the tape prior to ejecting. Before recording a tape, fast wind once through the tape and rewind to get a good, even "pack." 

Transfer One of a Kind Tapes
As tapes age, they must be copied onto new media, or "migrated", just as ageing film must. This is an important step in the future life of your valuable tapes. AMIPA can recommend the best solution for your needs and budget.
Transfer Your Home Movies to Video...

..but don't throw them away! Having home video copies of your 8mm or Super 8 films made will allow you to watch them without running them through a projector and possibly damaging them. Chances are, though, that the original film reels will last longer than your video copy.