I am currently removing a ton of photos from a magnetic album, for a friend right now. (Why? I ask myself. Mostly because I started her on taking them out, and then felt bad because before they were all viewable, so I told her I’d take them and finish them and put them into a very basic scrapbook form. Since it’s my thing, and not so much hers. And so we’re trading — I’ll do this and she’ll be making me something… we haven’t quite settled on it yet. Some sewing, or something. She’s big on sewing, and woodcrafts. Any ideas from anyone what I should have her make me? And because I care about photos, even other people’s photos, for whatever inexplicable reason. It’s a gift — and a curse.)
So now: the Rant. Diatribe, if you will. These so called “magnetic” albums are evil. EVIL. As in, the spawn of the devil. You may have heard this before (probably if you’ve been reading here long). But maybe you’ve wondered why? Let me enlighten you.
First off, why do people use them to begin with? (Really, they shouldn’t be allowed to even sell them, but I digress.) Answer: they’re very easy. Peel up the sheet, stick the photos down, smooth down the top sheet. Yes, very easy. And nowadays they’re starting to put “acid free” on them. But please, don’t be taken in.
Even if the glue and paper are acid free — which I wouldn’t take their word on, there’s no one actually policing it — even if the plastic doesn’t contain PVC or other harmful chemicals — it’s still just not a good idea. First of all, it’s best not to put adhesive all over the back of a photo. (Only in the corners, or along the edges if you must — much like labeling the backs; it’s not a bad idea, but use a very soft lead pencil or a special labeling pen, and only write on the edges, not in the middle right behind people’s faces. Ahem.) Yes, you want it to stay put, but the less chemical reactions the better. (Photography developing being it’s own chemical process — the fewer things we add to the mix the better.) Also it’s good if it’s as reversible (non-permanent) as possible. If you ever need to make a scan or copy; if the album gets wet and you need to take the photos out of it; and also documents need to breathe a little. (This is why they don’t laminate old photos and documents — it’s non-reversible, chemically complicating, and so on.)
But returning to the evil albums: they’re not actually magnetic in any sense, they just have tiny bits of adhesive all over the page. And when you lift that plastic sheet, it has adhesive on it as well — and it goes down on the front of your photographs. Not a good idea, even if it isn’t terrible acidic glue. See all the tiny spots of glue on the photos below?
Yes, those are all over just about every photo. Which mean they stick together if you stack them. And some of them look like someone also rubbed them with a kleenex or something — little white fuzzy bits stuck all over them. Any writing on the back of the photos – labeling, or notes from classmates on the back of those ubiquitous school photos — is pulling off and can hardly be read. And these are not that old.
There are so many ways the emulsion (which is the very thin part with the color – the actual picture on it) can be damaged here. The corners split when you try to get them enough to pull the photo off. The emulsion can bend excessively and wrinkle while you’re peeling the photo off the back. It can tear right off WHEN YOU LIFT THE FREAKIN PLASTIC SHEET, see below. If these had been home printed, the ink probably would’ve pulled right up, in an irreparable and unscanable manner.
Ironically, older magnetic albums, while more prone to having rubber cement and the like, are also sometimes easier to get the pictures out of, since the glue has dried more. The albums I rescued from my husband’s grandmother, some of the photos were falling right out.
Even with my trusty Undu and Undu photocare kit, this is an onerous task. It can be done — this is, I believe, the fourth full album I’ve done it on — and if you do have photos in these things please take them time to get them out, sooner rather than later. It’s almost as easy to just use slide in sleeves; or photo corners or double sided splits (only put the adhesive in the corners, or along the edges — that will be sufficient) and plain white cardstock for a simple presentation of your photos. (And then you can add just a bit of labeling/journaling: see my other entry.)
Prevention is definitely the best remedy. Please – just don’t use them. And don’t give them to poor innocent newlyweds as gifts. FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS USE MAGNETIC ALBUMS.