You’ve got the best intentions-soon, you really are going to organize all those loose photographs chronologically, and place them into albums or scrapbooks.
Until then, though, why not pull them out of that box in the basement, and use one of the ideas below to store and display loose photographs. It’s the perfect solution for photographs in limbo.
The main idea is to keep loose photographs contained, yet accessible. Having them shoved away in boxes allows no one to enjoy them. You’ll be surprised at how inviting loose photographs are-they may even get more attention than albums. There’s just something fun about going through stacks of photos-it appeals to the sense of discovery, and is less formal.
Cigar boxes are ideal for storing loose photographs. They are attractive, with fancy, gilded, high quality art embellishments, and look great. Stack two or three, keeping the lid open of the one on top. A lot of photos can fit into just one cigar box. For some reason, they’re like a magnet. I suppose the open lid is an invitation.
Whatever the case, cigar boxes make a great temporary storage for photos waiting to be placed in albums. Perhaps it’s just dumb luck, but I have found that estate sales are a very good source of cigar boxes.
Lots of people pick them up, but say something to the effect of, “They’re great, but what would I do with them?” Well, if you happen to come across any now, you know just what to do with them-fill them with loose photographs!
Other sources of cigar boxes are yard sales, antique stores, and flea markets. In all my years of secondhand shopping, I have never once seen a cigar box at a thrift store. It doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes out for them, though-again, perhaps it is just my dumb luck.
When choosing cigar boxes, make sure to smell the box to make sure there is no mildew or strong tobacco odor. Make sure to open the lid-the inner lid is where the fanciest design features are.
They’re usually quite inexpensive; I got ten of them for 50 cents at an estate sale that was getting ready to close. That’s super cheap of course, but many times they will be available for about $1-$3 apiece.
Vintage train cases
A “train case” is a small, boxy , hard-shelled suitcase, especially popular in the 1940s-1960s. Because of their popularity, there are many available at thrift stores and similar venues, oftentimes in almost perfect condition.
Thousands of photos can fit into just one train case. For displaying, keep the lid propped up.
Because of the “travel” aura of the suitcase, you might choose an old postcard or two, or some travel-oriented photos, to tuck under a clasp, or mirror (one cool feature on some train cases is a mirror on the inside lid.)
When looking for train cases, the main thing to consider is condition. Inspect it inside for odors, and make sure there are no stains (aside from the visual aspect, liquid may have caused a mildew problem.) Train cases clean up well-the outer shell can be scrubbed with a bleach solution if necessary. Usually, Windex and paper towels are sufficient.
Whether you choose a train case or a cigar box or two to store your loose photographs, be ready for family and guests to start digging. It’s a great way to get some enjoyment out of photos that are otherwise inaccessible.
Of course, there’s no reason to limit it to photographs, either. If you have old greeting cards, paper mementos, keepsakes, family letters, whatever-the cigar boxes and train case are a great way to display and share these things as well.