American Library Association started Preservation Week in 2010 to raise awareness and promote preservation of individual, family, organizational, and community archives. If you are just starting to think about preserving historical materials in your care, here are a few tips that have the most impact in prolonging the life of your historical papers, media, and objects.
- Store the materials in a cool, dry, clean place with good air circulation.
- Avoid storage locations that experience large fluctuations in temperature and humidity (the attic, basement, or garage, for instance). Instead, opt for a location where temperature and humidity are fairly stable, such as an interior closet.
- In most cases, the cooler the temperature, the better. Within a home or work environment, 68° – 70° F and 30% – 50% relative humidity is a good range.
- Avoid exposing the materials to light.
- Light damage is cumulative and irreversible.
- Keeping the materials in the dark when not in use, will help prevent slow deterioration.
- Putting items in a protective box, turning of lights, and closing blinds when a room is not in use, will go a long ways.
- Handle your historical materials with clean hands.
- Our own handling of items can be the most detrimental source of damage.
- Handle photographs by the edges, and avoid touching the image side.
- Label documents and photographs in pencil, lightly on the back so the indentation does not show through to the front.
- Make copies.
- When possible, make a copy by digitizing an item and letting the original stay in supportive and protective housing.
- Copies provide the enjoyment of the original, and allow you to share the document or image without harming the original.
If you have boxes of family materials in the basement, garage, or attic, this is a good week to take a little time and clear some room in an interior closet where the temperature, humidity, and air circulation are more stable. Take this one step and “pass it on”. As always, if you have questions or would like advice, please let us know!