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Organizing Your Home Movies

By Katy Aguayo

If you were alive between 1975 and 1995, chances are you probably have a few home videotapes lying around somewhere.

And if you personally don’t have any in your home, chances are your parents probably still have some darling home movies of you in your toddler days in storage.

The videotape has been out of its heyday for quite some time now, and sadly many home video collections have ended up in closets, basements, and attics, just wasting away and longing for the day they get to come out into the light again. 


Okay, we’re being a bit dramatic with that last bit. But in all seriousness, storing videotapes in these types of places is actually very bad for their lifespan. Basements and attics in particular are typically not temperature controlled, so videotapes are inevitably exposed to extreme heat and cold in the summers and winters. Not to mention the flooding risk with basements, and exposure to pests, dirt, and debris. So if attics and basements are out, where should we be storing our home movies?

According to the National Archives, the ideal storage conditions for videotapes are as follows:

  • Between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, not fluctuating more than a few degrees at a time
  • 30-55% relative humidity
  • Vertical storage, not stacked on top of each other
  • Away from anything creating an electromagnetic field

The Archives also recommend keeping tapes off the floor to avoid the risk of flooding damage and to keep pests like insects and rodents out of the storage boxes. 

It’s obvious that we can’t all perfectly store our video tapes in these conditions, but it’s important to try to get as close as possible to the ideal storage conditions listed above to preserve the lifespan of our videotapes. However, even with perfect storage conditions, videotapes will not last forever. Videotape is a sensitive material that degrades over time. Overplaying the tape and poor storage conditions only exacerbate that sensitivity and can reduce their lifespan even moreso. On average, a videotape will last for 10-25 years. That means that most videotapes won’t even last one generation!

So if all our home movies are doomed, how can we guarantee that the footage will be saved for future generations to see? The answer is digitization!

When you get your home movies digitized, a digital copy is made from the original video tape that won’t degrade and can’t become damaged over time. So essentially, through digitization, your home movies can last forever. Who doesn’t want that?

So even before you start worrying about proper storage of your videotapes, you should get them digitized! Memories are priceless, and our home movies can transport us to the past and help us to tell future generations about our history. Check out Southtree to get started on your digitizing journey.

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