Your Family Treasures
Libraries, archives, and museum are not the only places that have preservation concerns. People have objects at home and in offices that have special value for individuals. The objects may have been collected, inherited, or reminders of people and places in time. You can do much to preserve your treasures without going to extreme efforts and expenses, just by keeping some basic things in mind.
General Guidelines for Preserving Your Personal Collection
Provide a proper environment where the temperature will remain steady, no higher than 72 degrees, with low humidity (40-55%) Higher heat and humidity promote the growth of mold. The best areas of your home to keep your documents are main rooms, where the temperature is monitored and kept stable for your comfort, and closets that aren’t against exterior walls. Avoid the attic and basement; these spots are least likely to have a stable temperature and humidity level year round. Don’t hang valuable items above the fireplace or radiator.
Lighting should be kept to a minimum. Sunlight and fluorescent lighting exposure will cause fading, yellowing, brittleness, and weakening of the paper fibers.
Dust can abrade paper and photographs, and it usually holds inactive mold spores. If the humidity rises, the mold can become active and grow. Materials should be placed in boxes with lids to protect them from dust.
Interleave documents and photographs with acid-free paper to prevent the acids in one document from transferring to another.
Remove all paper clips, staples, and pins from your documents and photos. The metal will rust and eat through the paper, and even coated or plastic paperclips will leave indentations over time. Remove any rubber bands, as they will dry, crack, and possible often leave stains on books and papers.
Unfold all documents as much as possible. Creases and folds will deepen and split the paper. Do not keep letters folded in their original envelopes.
Photocopy your newspaper clippings. Newsprint is very cheap and acidic and degrades quickly. If you want to keep a full newspaper, store it in a flat box large enough to hold it, unfolded. Place acid-free paper between each page.
Use archival quality tape to repair a tear. Regular tape will dry, turn yellow, and flake off, leaving the harmful adhesive as a sticky stain on the paper. The same goes for glues. Acid can travel through layers of paper, damaging the ink and staining the paper. Never use rubber cement to attach things that you saving.
When storing items in an album, choose one with pages that are acid-free, preferably in white or off-white. Make sure that it is buffered or neutral, good-quality paper and/or polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene pages — not vinyl or PVC.
Use photo mounting corners or archival quality adhesives, not "magnetic" or self-adhesive pages. Make sure to encapsulate or use photocopies of acidic items to prevent damage of the surrounding items.
Use museum quality mat and frames to display items. Properly assembled frames are designed to promote a safe environment that keeps out dust, mold, and insects.
Caring for Your Family Archives (National Archives)
Guides for Taking Care of Your Personal Heritage (American Insitute for Conservation)