The photographs, letters, documents, and newspaper clippings that you cherish today could be even more valuable to generations to come. They are an important part of your family history and may also document your family's traditions, so handling them correctly now will help preserve your family for the future.
Saving and organizing these items is important, but there is still the danger of damage and deterioration. Often these items have been stored in boxes, albums, on shelves, under the bed, and even in the attic. If you are interested in better preserving your family photos and other documents, the Pratt Library’s Special Collections Unit has developed this guide to help you in the process.
Here are some guidelines for storing and preserving you family history:
Try to keep photographic materials at proper environmental conditions.
Avoid exposing photographic materials to anything containing
Other things to avoid are:
Purchase albums made of high-quality acid free materials and use only those photo corners recommended for the album you purchase.
Store photographs in proper enclosures made of plastic or paper materials that are free of sulfur, acids, and peroxides.
Important family documents include:
Notebooks are an excellent way to both preserve and organize these documents because they are portable and easily read. Protect the documents by using top-loading Mylar (TM) sheet protectors, and if storing more than one document in a sheet protector, separate them with a sheet of acid free paper. To safeguard original documents, you may want to keep the originals in files at home and carry photocopies of the documents in the notebook.
Filing or organizing your family documents in an understandable order is crucial. Many start the process by creating family group worksheets.
Try to choose a system of organizing that works best for your collection while keeping in mind that others will need to understand and use the method of organization you have chosen.
Preserving old newspaper clippings can be difficult. The paper stock or newsprint used in printing newspapers was never intended for archival preservation. Newsprint itself tends to disintegrate quickly.
The real value is in the stories written in the paper. While microfilming is the recommended method for preserving old newspapers, this may not be practical when you are trying to preserve small collections of clippings documenting your family history.
Photocopying newspaper clippings will preserve the content of a newspaper article or clipping. Make sure you are copying onto acid-free, archival-safe paper stock whenever possible. You can then store the original if you wish to keep it, and you will also have a backup copy on a more stable type of paper.
If you want to preserve whole newspapers (such as ones reporting the bombing of Pearl Harbor or John F. Kennedy's assassination) and cannot have them microfilmed, the best way is to provide some type of protective acid-free covering for them. Placing the paper in a folder, box, sheet of Mylar, or all three could do this. It is best to unfold the paper to its full length and store them flat. Try to keep the papers off the ground and in an area that has relatively stable temperature and humidity conditions.
A Preservation Guide: Saving the Past and Present for the Future by Barbara Sagraves. Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry, 1995. Z701.S24 1995
A short, simple guide to preserving everything from books and photos to videotape and computer disks. There is also a section on disaster recovery as well as a list of suppliers.
Better Scrapbooking by Vanessa-Ann. New York Sterling, 1999. TR465.V357 1999Q
A full-color handbook on how to creatively show off your family pictures. Techniques such as decoupage, rubber stamping, stenciling, and faux finishes are explained.
Care and Identification of 19th-Century Photographic Prints by James M. Reilly.Rochester, NY: Eastman Kodak, 1986. TR465.R45 1986Q
An authoritative source that tells the story of the first half-century of photographic technology. It also explains how to identify, preserve, store, and handle the various forms of 19th-century photos.
Preserving Your Family Photographs: How to Organize, Present, and Restore Precious Family Images by Maureen A. Taylor. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2001. TR465.T35 2001Q
Along with its explanation of the different forms of photographs, from the earliest types in the mid-1800s to the most modern digital images, this book show what problems to look for and how to protect the pictures you have. There are also chapters on finding professional conservators, organizing your material, and scrapbooking.
Online Preservation Sites
Conservation OnLine (COOL)
The Preservation Department at Stanford University offers a full-text online library of conservation information.
The Library of Congress
Links to information about caring for the Library of Congress’ collection, but also to one’s own collection.
Northeast Document Conservation Center
NEDCC provides online preservation manuals, suppliers, service lists, and resources for emergency response.
PO Box 787
Brea , CA 92822-0787
Metal Edge, Inc.
Archival Storage Supplies
6340 Bandini Blvd.
Commerce , CA 90040
(800) 862-2228 voice
(888) 822-6937 fax
The Archival Company
517 Main Street
P.O. Box 101
Holyoke, MA 01041-0101
(800) 336-4847 voice
(800) 532-9281 fax
If you have further questions about preserving your family history, please e-mail us, phone us at 410-396-5430, or contact us by snail mail:
Special Collections Unit
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore , MD 21201