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Posts Tagged ‘Archives Month’

-contributed by Emily Gainer.

October is American Archives Month and National Family History Month.  Two important topics in one month!  In recognition, I wanted to share a little bit about how an archivist (me) thinks about storing family treasures.

Most people have important items that document their family’s history.  It might be photographs, diplomas, cookbooks, or a Bible.  The items may have historical value or sentimental value.  Whatever your treasured items are, there are some general tips for preservation.

General advice for preserving family treasures:

  • Store important items in a cool, dry area with a stable environment. This generally means no basements or attics.  Fluctuation in temperatures and humidity can be very damaging.
  • Store items away from water tanks, water pipes, humidifiers or anything else that introduce moisture to your historical materials.
  • Similarly, store items away from a heater, fireplace, or furnace. This includes displaying items by hanging them on the wall.  Don’t hang family photographs directly over a heating vent.
  • Store items away from light. Sunlight and light bulbs can cause photographs and ink to fade over time.  Before displaying items in your home, consider the amount of light they will be exposed to.
  • Store paper documents and photographs unfolded and unrolled. Folds can weaken the paper and cause tears over time.
  • Family treasurers are meant to be shared and enjoyed! When sharing those items with family during the holidays, use clean hands.  Wash lotions off, and keep the items away from the dinner table or drink glasses.  When handling photographs, wear cotton gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and oils.

This oversize photograph at the CCHP was folded and rolled. You can see the damage it has caused. It is recommended to store items unfolded and unrolled. I’ve been working on unrolling this photograph by enclosing it an archival folder and placing heavy books on top.  Over time, it will relax but will never go back to its original state.

There are many resources available to provide more details about preservation.  The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) publishes a series of preservation leaflets.  The Image Permanence Institute specializes in storage guides for photographs, including digital images.  Additionally, many archivists order archival supplies, such as folders, boxes, and photograph sleeves, from Gaylord.

White cotton gloves are recommended for handling photographs, negatives, and glass plates. No fingerprints! I keep a pair of gloves in my desk drawer at all times.

So this month, think like an archivist!  Look at your family history treasures and consider what you can do to ensure their long-term preservation.

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