Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tips for Preserving Documents and Photos

Lots of people on Etsy recycle old paper and photos, reusing them in new products. Well, I'm a big believer in recycling. On the other hand, there’s a time and place to keep original documents.


I work in an archives in southwest Oklahoma. So when this week's Etsybloggers Carnival was revealed ("Create a tutorial"), I thought I could write something about preservation:

Tip #1 - Don't Laminate.
Did you know that laminating your important documents is one of the worst things that you can do? The process uses glues and heat, which permanently bond the items to the plastic. Once it’s done, there’s no way going back. Irreversible.




Tip #2 - Use archival sleeves for your photographs.
To protect your images and documents, enclose them in archival quality transparent sleeves. They are currently being made of polypropylene, polyester, or polyethylene. These products are chemically stable, and free from additives and surface coatings. (see Tip #7)
















Tip #3 - Environment.
At our museum, we place the transparent sleeves into acid-free envelopes or folders, and place THEM in acid-free boxes. I guess you would call that layering. But where you store your folders and/or boxes is paramount. They should be kept out of direct sunlight. Most people know that basements and attics are off limits. You need a dry and even temperature; an inside closet or under the bed, if space is an issue. The same rules apply for artwork and books. If at all possible, avoid shelving books against an outside wall, where condensation can form. A room with north or east windows is the best location for books and keepsakes.


Tip #4 - Copies.
Now, I know I’m going to get flack from all the scrapbookers out there, who make some great looking gifts. But there’s a difference between a fun scrapbook and original documents. If you want to put together a scrapbook, make copies! This can’t be overstated. Scan those marriage certificates and land deeds, and all those family photographs. Then store the originals in your archival sleeves, and leave the scrapbooks on the coffee table.


Tip #5 - Reversibility.
The rule of thumb is: if it’s not reversible (like lamination), it’s not a good preservation practice. So place originals in sleeves and folders, and use glue or tape on the copies.





Tip #6 - Write down names, now -
when you and your elders can still remember who people are, and when things happened. Photographs won’t mean much to the family, if they don’t know who they are. I see over and over again, when people donate to the archives, nobody knows who the people are in the photographs. They are lost forever. So do it today, or maybe on someone‘s birthday or a family get together.



Tip #7 - Archival products.
If you don’t use archival products, you’re wasting your money. There are many companies whose sole business is selling archival supplies. Whether you are looking at storing original photographs, certificates, baseball cards, negatives, wedding dresses, or books - there are storage containers of every size. Several mail order companies with catalogs are:
Light Impressions , Hollinger Corporation , Metal Edge, and University Products.


I hope this inspires you to sit down with your family, go through the albums and gather your important documents, and put things in proper storage containers. And have fun doing it!

4 comments:

Dayna said...

great advice.

SpottedCow said...

Thanks for the great tips.

Stormy Designs said...

Great tips, thanks!

. said...

Interesting and unusual information to learn here. Guess you never know and that's fun!

I enjoy how our blogs help us to get to know one another a bit more.

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