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The Best Archival Photo Albums

Jun 04, 2024

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You can’t beat the experience of looking at physical photographs, but figuring out how to store them over the long haul can be a huge deterrent to taking them. With archival photo albums, you can keep your pictures organized and you don’t have to worry about images yellowing over time. Made of PVC- and acid-free materials that won’t damage your photos, these albums let you organize your images any way you want, preserve them for years on end, and provide the tactile satisfaction of flipping through physical pages. In that respect, archival photo albums offer a way to keep your past present. Note that self-adhesive or “magnetic” photo albums are not archival, and if mounting your photos, make sure you use an archival (and preferably reversible!) method such as mounting corners or removable adhesive. Find out which is best for you in our list of recommendations below.

How we pick each product:Our mission is to recommend the most appropriate artists’ tool or supply for your needs. Whether you are looking for top-of-the line equipment or beginners’ basics, we’ll make sure that you get good value for your money by doing the research for you. We scour the Internet for information on how art supplies are used and read customer reviews by real users; we ask experts for their advice; and of course, we rely on our own accumulated expertise as artists, teachers, and craftspeople.

ARTnews RECOMMENDSKolo Hudson 3Up Photo AlbumKolo creates sophisticated photo albums that are designed to be part of lifelong photo collections. They are archival from cover to cover, featuring premium Italian-milled book cloth and paper made in the company’s own mill, following its own recipe. Each holds 300 4-by-6-inch photographs that you can easily slip into polypropylene pockets—you don’t have to fuss with glue or adhesive corners. These high-clarity sleeves are sturdy and reach about two thirds of each page; the remaining space can be used to write descriptions, and the 80-pound, acid-free paper can tolerate inky pens without bleed. The covers come in an array of colors, and albums look attractive when placed together on a shelf.

WE ALSO LIKESemikolon Black Page Photo AlbumsSpiral-bound albums are a great option if you prefer albums that can lie totally flat when open. These durable ones from Semikolon are available in three sizes—holding 20, 25, or 45 sheets—and lots of fun colors like marine, lime, and hot pink. The cover is made of high-quality linen over heavy book board that won’t warp and is put together with heavy-gauge wire. Inside, find acid-free, thick pages that will really make images pop: the sheets are black, which provides a striking and classic backdrop to any image.

ANOTHER GOOD OPTIONPioneer Photo AlbumThis midsize photo album, handsomely covered in good-quality cloth, binds its pages together with a hardcover spine. The front features a small frame you can slip a photo into through a slot on the inside of the cover. Similar to our top pick, the album can hold 200 photos measuring up to four by six inches and contains transparent sleeves with pockets that can accommodate two horizontal images per page or one image vertically. The price is lower than Kolo albums (nearly half!), so this is a particularly great option if you’re shopping on a budget, but you won’t be getting the workmanship of the latter. Colors aren’t as vibrant, and the materials are not as impressive. Still, being acid, lignin, and PVC free, it’s a good option if you’re looking for something that can safely store a substantial—though not overwhelming—number of photos.

TOP OF THE LINEArchival Methods Matching 3-Ring Binder and Case SetWhile plainer than our other options, these albums are the right choice for storing old, fragile, or one-of-a-kind photos. The covers of both the binder and the slipcase are constructed of archival-quality, glue-free binder’s board, and both are lined with acid- and lignin-free paper. The slipcase fits tightly to keep out dust and dirt. Fill with the company’s archival pages and know that your most precious photos will be safe from all but the most extreme conditions.

ALSO CONSIDERBooks by Hand Just the Pieces Album KitsMake your own customizable photo album with one of these kits from Books by Hand, which come with everything needed to make ribbon bound, post bound or accordion albums. Each kit comes with precut components and instructions for making a no-frills archival book, which you can personalize with paper, fabric, or art. Decorate and fill with photographs for a truly thoughtful gift.

ARTnews RECOMMENDSKolo Hudson 3Up Photo AlbumWE ALSO LIKESemikolon Black Page Photo AlbumsANOTHER GOOD OPTIONPioneer Photo AlbumTOP OF THE LINEArchival Methods Matching 3-Ring Binder and Case SetALSO CONSIDERBooks by Hand Just the Pieces Album Kits