Preservation tips

Moving image formats, whether they are held on film, videotape or a digital format, are fragile. Ideally they would be looked after by a specialist archive like MACE. But if you want to keep them at home here are some golden rules for restricting decay or loss:

Image of a reel of film being examined.Image of a film can.Image of the film store.




  • Keep film and videotape in a cool dry place where the temperature is as stable as possible all year round as changes in temperature and humidity do more damage to film and magnetic tape than most other factors.
  • Keep film stored flat (horizontal).
  • Be aware that film shrinks over time and that running old film on a projector could tear it, or worse. Better to get it copied by a reputable transfer facility and watch it on a television or computer.
  • Keep videotape stored upright (vertical).
  • Make sure that you have additional copies (back ups) of your digital files. This could be on a separate hard drive or in the ‘cloud’. Keep the copy in a different place from the original.
  • Regularly transcode your digital files to a modern file format to avoid the impact of codec obsolescence.
  • If you have your film transferred to a digital format retain the original material if at all possible. Film generally holds more information than a compressed digital copy and can be copied again if necessary.
  • If you have 35mm film and are concerned about it being cellulose nitrate please contact us as soon as possible. A leaflet produced by the Health and Safety Executive about nitrate film can be found here.

You can find some more detailed guidance at the following:

  • Link 1 – A summary of the basic principles of film preservation provided by the US’ Library of Congress. Includes how to identify film gauges, general care and handling, storage and further links.
  • Link 2 – Provided by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive this documents answers some of the more basic ‘frequently asked questions’ about looking after film.
  • Link 3 – Written the British Film Institute these guidance notes refer to videotape as well as film. Includes information on the film and video conservation and preservation, identifying film and video formats but, most importantly, provides an identification sheet on to which you can lay your film.
  • Link 4 – Links to other resources provided by Film Archives UK.

Please contact us if you have any questions.