We have all kinds of things in our personal collections. How can we best preserve them? Here are some tips, including links to trusted archival suppliers:
Temperature and humidity — Move your treasures out of the attic and/or basement into the main part of your living space. Attics and basements have too many shifts in temperature and humidity, which speed up the rate of deterioration in all materials. The goal is to keep your home archives in a place where the temperature and humidity are stable.
Light — Keep your items out of direct sunlight and sources of ultraviolet light, such as fluorescent blubs. Light fades photographs, ink, and printed materials over time.
Harmful items — Very gently remove rusty fasteners like staples and clips. Avoid tearing your materials.
Acid-free enclosures — Use acid-free and buffered archival materials to hold your paper-based items. For textiles, avoid buffered materials because they can affect color dyes.
Trusted archival suppliers — Although some suppliers will tell you that their materials are archival, it is likely that they may not be. We recommend the following trusted archival suppliers: Hollinger Metal Edge, University Products, Archival Methods, and Gaylord Archival. Sign up for their email lists so that you can be notified of sales, especially free shipping.
Printed Photographs, Negatives, and/or Slides (still film-based materials)
- Wear protective gloves (such as nitrile or undyed cotton) to handle printed film-based items by their edges.
- Insert the photos and slides into polyester sleeves like these: https://www.universityproducts.com/polypropylene-photo-album-pages-8-x-10-in.html.
- Put your sleeves into stackable binder boxes like these: https://www.universityproducts.com/preservation-box-album.html.
- Do not write on the backs of photos with pen. Use a pencil, but only very lightly. Better yet, label the polyester sleeves instead, but don’t write on a label on the sleeve while the photo is inside. It will leave an impression.
- If your photographs are very large (over 8.5 x 11 in.), you can sleeve them in polyester envelopes like these: https://www.universityproducts.com/archival-polyester-envelopes.html. Then, place them flat in an oversized box like these: https://www.universityproducts.com/perma-dur-barrier-board-drop-front-boxes-black.html. Just make sure to measure your photo first and give it an inch around all sides so that it does not become bent or warped.
- If they are not too fragile and the spine and cover are attached and in good shape, store them standing vertically with adequate support on both sides.
- Do not pack books tightly together because this will damage the spine.
- To keep books clean, use a very soft bristled brush and brush dust gently away from the spine. Do not use polish or any other treatment.
- If your books require more protection, add an inch around all sides (including the height) to the measurements of your book, then select from an archival drop-side box like one of these: https://www.hollingermetaledge.com/modules/store/index.html?dept=1&cat=336&cart=158578304643409962.
- Alternately, you can use a four-flap enclosure such as this one: https://www.hollingermetaledge.com/modules/store/index.html?dept=1&cat=393&cart=158578304643409962.
Papers, Letters, Files, Financial Documents,and other items commonly found in filing cabinets
- Unfold papers, unless they are too fragile.
- Place documents inside of acid-free, buffered legal-sized folders within archival boxes of the same size like these: https://www.hollingermetaledge.com/modules/store/index.html?dept=565&cat=597&cart=158759436975231082. Alternately, you can use archival cartons with the folders stored the length of the carton like these: https://www.universityproducts.com/perma-cor-b-flute-corrugated-bulk-storage-cartons.html. Label the folders with the subject/name and the year(s) of the items within the folder.
- Interleave acid-free, buffered papers between pages that have acidic (yellowed, crumbly portions) areas.
- Keep items in their original order. There is meaning to the way they were collected.
- Label your boxes with the subjects and the year(s) of the items inside.
Maps and Architectural Drawings/Blueprints
- Unfold and store flat.
- If your items cannot be stored flat, store them rolled within an archival tube or oversized box such as this one: https://www.universityproducts.com/perma-dur-roll-storage-boxes.html.
- Do not use rubberbands or clips. Use cotton tyeing tape or unbleached, undyed cotton yarn. Do not tie tightly enough to cause wrinkles or buckling of the paper.
- Do not try to remove photos or other items from your scrapbook unless they are completely loose. Even then, take a photograph of the page first.
- If the binding is falling apart, you can disbind it. First, number with a pencil all the pages. Next, photograph all the pages in order, first to last. Then, very gently remove the cover from the rest of the pages. If you need help, please contact Deb Schiff, Adult Services Librarian, at email@example.com. She will be happy to help you.
- Store the scrapbook flat. If it is in fragile condition, store it in an archival box with a drop front, like this one: https://www.universityproducts.com/perma-dur-barrier-board-drop-front-boxes-blue-gray.html.
Film-based Items (such as photos, slides, motion picture film, negatives)
- Always wear gloves when handling any film-based item. Nitrile gloves are inexpensive and grippy.
- Place photos in appropriately slized polyester sleeves such as these: https://www.universityproducts.com/polypropylene-photo-album-pages-8-x-10-in.html. They fit easily into binder boxes such as these: https://www.universityproducts.com/preservation-box-album.html, which can be stacked.
- Keep similarly sized items together.
- Older photos, such as tintypes and daguerrotypes can be kept in acid-free folders in boxes rather than sleeves. If they are in cases, wrap the case in archival tissue and place in an archival box.
- Check motion picture film to see if it smells like vinegar. When acetate film deteriorates, it breaks down in a way that releases fumes that smell like vinegar. If you notice the odor, contact the Northeast Document Conservation Center to arrange for conservation of your film, and transfer.
- Do not store modern negatives in polyeseter sleeves. These can be stored in acid-free folders in an archival box. Storing them in polyester sleeves leads to curling.
Audio and Video Recordings
- Keep these recordings away from heat and humidity, as well as sunlight.
- Store tapes on their end, rewound to the beginning.
- Digitize sooner rather than later.
- Avoid exposure to pollutants and harsh chemicals, and avoid light.
- Regularly inspect closely for mold, fungus, pests, and mildew.
- Support all areas when handling.
- Don’t wear jewelry when handling.
- If you store your textiles on hangers, make sure that they are well padded and that the textile is strong enough to support its own weight while hanging.
- Pad folded areas with unbuffered archival tissue when boxing them. Make sure to add at least 1 inch leeway from what would be the top of the box so that you do not crush your textiles. Here is an example of a suitable textile box: https://www.universityproducts.com/polypropylene-textile-storage-boxes.html.
- Larger textiles, such as tapestries, will need to be stored rolled in or on archival tubes and covered with polyester sheeting to protect them (in the case of items rolled around a tube).
For more information on items not described here, please contact Deb Schiff, Adult Services Librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org.