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Document Preservation

by: Your Family Legacy

Proper preservation of the papers that make up a family history collection is often neglected by many people. The papers I’m referring to could be printouts from your computer, newspaper clippings, birth/death/marriage certificates, old report cards, mom’s love letters, and so forth. A little bit of care is all that is needed and you’ll greatly increase a document’s longevity. After all, we want them to last so our descendants can enjoy them. Its not hard either, here are some tips:

1. For documents that are on acid-bearing paper (such as birth certificates, newspaper clippings, etc.), spray them with a deacidification spray, such as Archival Mist. This will neutralize the acid and stop the paper from weakening over time.

2. Print out your computer data on acid free paper. There are many suppliers of this and you can buy it at an office supply store. But don’t let the paper come into contact with other acid bearing paper/materials because it will contaminate the paper.

3. If you are putting items in a scrapbook or heritage album, mount them on acid-free, lignin free paper with an acid-free adhesive (you may want to use small amounts of a temporary adhesive on the edges of the document to allow easier removal if needed later).

4. For your very important documents and newspaper clippings, you might want to wear gloves when handling them to keep your skin oils from staining the paper.

5. Store your documents in either archival (meaning acid-free and lignin-free) albums, storage units, or page protectors. Make sure the papers, especially newspaper clippings, are stored flat and not folded.

6. Pens with acid-free ink or pencils should be used if your going to write on a document.

7. Avoid long-term exposure to light as the UV rays can cause damage. High heat and humidity are also detrimental.

8. Use a pH test pen if you have any question as to whether a document is acid free.

9. To repair a torn or ripped document, use an archival, transparent document mending tape (such a made by 3M). Do not use typical cellophane tape.


Library of Congress information on paper preservation:

Guidelines for storage from the State Library of Victoria, Australia:

Miscellaneous tips on handling, storage, etc:

Information about Archival Mist:

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