As Preservation Week 2020 continues, we’re pleased to bring you this guest post by Laryssa Duncan, reference librarian at the Cambria County Library.
A family history can be documented in many forms, and it can be difficult to know where to start when preserving that history. Many collections contain various types of materials such as paper documents, objects, and photographs. Here is an overview about how to care for and house these materials using simple tips, as well as how perform basic preservation techniques that are assessable to the average collector of family history, with a downloadable PDF with further details.
First, assess the makeup of your collection. Are there photographs? Documents? Objects? This will help you plan ahead of time for any purchases of material that you will need, as well as help you develop a good organizational system. These materials do have different methods of how to care for them, but they all have some in common. All materials are affected by the environment and how they are stored. Always try to store materials in a cool, dry place where the temperature and humidity does not fluctuate from one extreme to another. Protect them from dust and pests, as well as light. Store materials in containers that fit correctly and are acid-free. Try to store each type of materials separately, because they all have their own unique storage needs.
Photographs are very sensitive to light and changing environments. Store them in a place that is cool and dry, never in a basement or attic that has large changes in temperature and humidity. Store them in a container that gives them proper support and if you decide to store them in an album, use ones that are acid –free and free of adhesives.
There are also documents, like your grandmother’s letters or your great-uncle’s documentation papers. Store them in acid-free folders or sleeves that will support them, so they will not bend or become damaged. Keep them in an acid-free container that will protect them from light and pests that feed on paper.
Lastly, we have objects. Objects are trickier to store, because they can be many different shapes and sizes, as well as made of a variety of materials. Store them in sturdy containers with acid-free packing and proper support, especially for fragile objects. If your budget allows, order a custom-made container that fits the unique dimensions of the object. This will provide the best support and protection for your treasure.