We receive calls and e-mails all the time asking us for advice on how to preserve family papers. Here are a few tips that will help to ensure your family’s history is preserved for future generations.
Typical boxes of family papers received by the NSHS.
1. Store your papers in a place with good, constant climate control. Cooler and dryer are best. Temperatures above 75 degrees can increase chemical decay as well as insect activity, so hot attics are not a good option. Relative humidity above 55% can result in mold growth, so keep your family papers out of damp basements or garages. Keep papers boxed up and in the dark to prevent fading from light exposure. If you want to display an item, have a high quality reproduction made for display and store the original. 2. Handle your papers with clean, lotion-free hands. Do not eat, drink or smoke around your family papers. Wearing cotton or latex gloves is not recommended when handling papers as it can actually do more damage when handling delicate papers. It is, however, recommended that you use gloves when handling photographs and negatives to prevent staining and damage from fingerprints. 3. Do not attempt to make repairs to your papers. Tape, glue or lamination will only cause further damage. If you have items in need of repair, contact a professional conservator.
Damage from tape repair.
For more information about preserving your family treasures, see our website for the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center. Our conservators have put together some great resources for preserving your family papers, photographs and other heirlooms!