Photographic slides were all the rage back in the day, when auto-advance projectors were considered new and cutting-edge technology. However, today you’re likely to find boxes of old slides collecting dust—with no projector in sight to view them.
This guide will help you clean and preserve those slides for safe storage, understanding they hold valuable memories of years gone by. It will also explain how to digitize your slides so your precious memories last well into the future.
History of Slides and Slide Projectors
The use of slides to capture and display imagery began back in 1849 with William and Frederick Langenheim. This medium was known as “magic lantern slides” and they were unveiled just a decade after the invention of photography (Penn State University Libraries). These slides captured photographs on glass instead of paper, making them translucent and projectable. They became the go-to way to capture and display photos until more accessible slide options became available.
Fast forward to the 1930s when the iconic 35mm slide film burst onto the scene (EdTech Magazine). This format allowed users to easily capture images onto a slide for convenient display. Then, in the 1960s, Kodak unveiled a carousel slide projector for simplified display. Users could load anywhere from 80 to 140 35mm slides into the rotational tray. With the touch of the button, they could rotate through the images being projected. This was a game-changer for everyone from educators to families wanting to easily share their photos.
How to Preserve Slides and Properly Handle Them
If you happen to have cherished memories captured on photographic slides, proper storage and handling are vital. Follow these tips to make sure your slides remain in pristine condition for years to come.
Handling Your Photographic Slides
How you handle your slides when they are out of storage is another big factor in preserving them. First, start with a clean surface to work on and unpack your slides. Wear archival gloves to protect your slides from sweat and the damaging oils on your hands. Work efficiently to prevent unnecessary exposure to light while viewing and reorganizing your photo slides.
Storing Photographic Slides
The first step is deciding on a cool, dry, and dark place to store your slides. Light and moisture can cause permanent damage to the delicate material, so make sure to avoid daylight and dampness. A fireproof safe with a built-in dehumidifier could be your best bet to prevent any catastrophic damage.
Then, choose a container to properly store your slides. You can create an album to organize slides and keep them safe. Using clear archival storage pages, you can store 35mm slides to easily access the ones you’re looking for. Or, if you have a vast collection, you can opt for a 35mm slide storage box with archival properties and secure closure. This allows you to line large numbers of slides back to back in condensed storage while still keeping them safe.
Viewing Slide Photos
Viewing your slide photos is easy and convenient with three main options. First, you can use a magnifying loupe to zoom in and see your images at different magnifications. You can also invest in a slide viewer lightbox that both illuminates and magnifies your slide images. However, the most convenient way to view your slides might be on a smartphone app. These utilize your screen to illuminate your slide’s images for quick and convenient viewing.
Cleaning Photographic Slides
In the event that your slides get a smudge or debris on them, you’ll want to make sure to clean them properly. First, use compressed air to remove any dust or dirt from the surface of the slide without contact. Then, use isopropyl alcohol or a special slide cleaner to wipe the slide with a cotton swab or microfiber cloth. Don’t forget to leave them out to dry completely before returning them to storage.
How to Convert Slides to Digital Images
If you’d like to convert your slides to digital images and secure your memories, you have a few options. You can use a flatbed scanner, slide projector, or duplicator mount for digitization.
If you’d prefer to use a scanner, the manufacturer’s software might make it a no-brainer. Check to see if there are already options for scanning slides in your scanner’s settings. Make sure to clean the bed of the scanner and scan your slides using a higher resolution than you would for documents. You might need to use a light diffuser or build a DIY backlight for the best results (PC World).
You can also use a projector to digitize your slides. Simply project your image on a surface in a dark room. Use a level to make sure your image is straight. Then, use a digital camera or high-quality smartphone camera to take a picture of the projected photo. You can set your camera up on a tripod for better stability.
If you have a DSLR camera that you love, you can purchase a slide duplicator mount. This adapter allows you for converting slides to digital files right on your camera. These attachments are simple to install and make it easy to digitize your slides right into your camera’s memory or SD card.
Send Them Into the Pros for Digitizing
If you want your slides or negatives digitized by professional experts, send them into iMemories for quality conversion and storage. They’ll take your slides, convert them, and place your digitized photos in the safe and secure iMemories cloud. Then, you’ll be able to share and access your treasured memories from any device for years to come.