The film you found in the attic, inherited, or bought at an auction, may not have been stored properly, over the ages. However, even if it was, film breaks down, because it’s made of an organic material.
Most of the film we receive in is in generally good condition – on the outside. In most cases, it was packed away, decades ago, in it’s original metal or plastic reel containers. Many folks will inherit their film from family members, when they’re cleaning out an attic or basement storage. Most of us really couldn’t vouch definitively on the lifetime storage conditions of our film. Film kept in an unstable environment, even a for a few weeks, could impact the film’s condition, and it’s longevity.
Film storage is an important aspect of preserving treasured memories. When we send the original (cleaned, spliced, repaired and lubricated) film back to our customers, it’s important that these originals, are also re-stored properly, for future years.
As long as you keep the following in mind, you’ll be good to go:
Make sure the storage room is cool and dry. Moisture and temperature swings, or continuous excessive moisture, or continuous extreme temperature, will invariably affect the film. Remember… it’s organic! So basements and attics are typically risky places to keep your old film, unless you have a reliable “whole house” climate control system.
The ideal storage range is called the “40-40”. 40 degrees in temperature and 40 percent humidity. Now, this is ideal, and it may not be practical to achieve these conditions. The important thing is to be aware of these hazards, and to limit fluctuations in humidity, and temperature as much as possible.
Light is another enemy of film. So if you store your film in the back of a closet, that may be OK. As long as it’s dry, and in a temperature and humidity “stable” part of your home.
Don’t label your film with anything but acid-free paper, and affix the label to the outside of the reel.
Don’t store your film in a plastic bag. Your film needs to breathe. (That “organic” thing again”). The film may emit gases which need to escape. A plastic bag or container, will trap these gases, and accelerate film deterioration.