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Save diaries, letters, old postcards, photographs, maps, drawings, recordings of family members - tapes, etc. for oral history, photographs, slides and rubbings of tombstones, quilts, deeds and contracts.

Do not save old newspapers! If you want the information saved in your files, photocopy the articles on good bond paper. Newspapers are pure acid and eventually crumble to nothing. There are other sources for information contained in newspapers. Most are on microfilm.

Ultra violet light cause deterioration of any memorabilia. Protection from light is the first and most important consideration in saving old items - or even current ones. Covering pictures, or anything made of paper, with a plastic film which filters out at least 97 per cent of the ultra violet rays is a must. This should be applied between the glass and picture of any item that is being framed. DO NOT LAMINATE. This is an irreversible process. Encapsulate, frame, but do not laminate.

Most glues used in scrapbooks, etc. are called "irreversible glue" - that is, they are permanent. Things glued this way to paper will be ruined by the acid in the paper. There are ways archivists use to loosen items glued in this way. If one needs help in saving such items, contact the archives in your area. They will be glad to help.

Items that have been stored in basements often become moldy. They can be restored by killing the mold, then washing. Any washing done to old items must be done with distilled water. Powdered chlorine bleach is a valuable tool in cleaning and preserving prints. Acid paper can be buffered to counteract the acid. It comes in liquid or spray. This should be done after the cleaning process. Then the item must be stored in an acid-free environment, protected from ultra violet light. Specific cleaning instructions should be obtained from an archives or other source.

Quilts should be saved but they should not be folded. You may hang them if you make a sleeve to hang them from using a waxed flax thread. Never hang them from the quilt material itself. To store them get a large cardboard roll and roll them, then make a muslin sleeve to cover them as protection from dust. The cardboard must be sprayed with the buffer mentioned above, then covered with cotton before rolling the quilt in it. To repair or hold old deteriorating quilts together, use fine silk and waxed thread.

Encapsulate them in mylar. Cut two sheets of mylar, at least 1 " bigger than the document. Run adhesive transfer tape (available at art supply stores, I believe) around all 4 sides of one of the sheets, leaving about 1/8th inch free of adhesive at each corner.

Lay the document in the center of this sheet, being careful so that it does not come in contact with the adhesive.

Then roll the second sheet of mylar on top, so that the adhesive forms an almost complete seal.

The mylar is inert and will not leach any harmful acids onto or into the document. It also protects it from handling. The 1/8' inch left free of adhesive in each corner insures that air and moisture can freely pass in and out, and you will not have any mold or mildew (foxing) or dry rot.

If you are planning to frame, frame a copy. Store the original (after encapsulation) horizontally, in rag mats, window on top, uncut backing on the bottom. Use photo corners to affix the mylar corners to the backing board.

Do NOT use lamination on any document you wish to preserve. The gasses the paper and ink produces will accumulate within the lamination, further eroding the paper, ink and lettering. You can also use Ph neutral paper to cover the clippings on both side, and SUPPORTING it (yes, even if they lay flat), as newspaper paper-quality does not hold its own support.

DO NOT treat the paper with various anti-acid solution without TESTING the effect this might have on the ink. Again, cheap ink was commonly used with newspaper.

DO NOT Xerox the clippings: the heat & exposure of the copy machine will harm the paper and accelerate its deterioration (YES, even a one time exposer does a tremendous amount of damage, in a 5-10 years period). If you wish to make a copy, us a camera.

READ more about this stuff. A good classic start up book is "An Ounce Of Preservation". Cheap, thorough and for non-professionals.

More ideas from: Ellen Bisson and Denise Cross (, a professional librarian. Denise Cross wrote:

There are 2 excellent spray products on the market. Bookkeeper and Wei To Sprays. University Products (800-628-1912) and Light Impressions carry them ( Just spray on and let dry.

Lamination is ok...but it is actually a mixed bag. Your lamination film and adhesive MUST be free of anything that will contribute to yellowing. The item cannot "breathe" in this environment and if the chemicals present are destructive over time, the item will yellow badly. It won't crumble because of the support from the laminate, but it can get hard to read. I've seen some laminated newsprint stay relatively fresh and some turn brown. A better option (and the one archives use) is micro-encapsulation. Using sheets of mylar and acidfree/archival quality double sided adhesive, you sandwich the item between two sheets and seal all around the edge (leaving a tiny gap for "breathing"). Backing the document with a buffered sheet of lignin free paper or treating with a spray above will help arrest the deterioration. The item itself is not adhered in anyway, so the mylar can be cut open to remove it at a future date. The mylar lends great support to the paper as well. The mylar sheets come in many sizes, small sheets for cutting to preserve clippings to big enough to encapsulate broadsides.

Copying onto acid free, lignin free paper is the way to go for long term preservation of the information.

Ellen's note: I have purchased acid-free album sheets, clear mylar protectors and archival glue from a catalog company called Exposures in Oshkosh, WI (1 800 572-5750). The glue is abt $7.95 per tube and it's a small tube. The glue is sort of rubbery and you can actually remove a photo to replace it or move, provided it isn't fragile. You would not be able to move a newspaper clipping, however. On another list, I believe someone also said acid free album sheets were available at Wal-Mart.

If you must mend torn documents or books, do not use cellophane tape as it will brown over time. Go to a good art store or library supply store and find tape made from Mylar "D" or Scotchpar film coated with a pH neutral adhesive. They do not have acid in them and will not brown like scotch tape.

OPINION ON PHOTOCOPYING OLD PHOTOS: Photocopying old photos contribute to their degradation. Photos will deteriorate no matter what method is used to store them or to copy them. Some can be damaged by the bright light used in some copiers. Even though you don't see any appreciable difference right away, it can still damage the picture over a period of time.

If your ancestral photos are really old, and if you intend to make copies for distribution, it is best to have the professionally re-photographed by someone who knows what they are doing. A low light (NOT flash!), combined with either a wide lens opening and/or long shutter time, will give optimum results without subjecting the old photograph to damaging light rays. This will also give you a good negative from which you can make other copies, enlargements, compositions, etc.

Yes, this is the more expensive way to go but nobody ever said genealogy was a cheap hobby. And, it doesn't have to be all that expensive... a good single-lens reflex 35mm camera on a steady mount surface and a holder to put the original picture in while taking the photo is about all you need. It can be done in almost any well-lit room (avoid direct sunlight on the original photo, however). That, and the price of a roll of film being developed and printed is about all it takes.

If your document has been rolled up for many years and you want to straighten it out - get a sheet of rag matboard to act as a blotter, a sheet of rag paper and have handy a heavy piece of glass. Dampen the sheet of rag paper slightly with distilled water from a spray bottle. Have someone help you carefully unroll the document onto the matboard, lay the rag paper on top and cover it all with the piece of glass. Let sit for at least 24 hours. When uncovered, it should be flat. Let it dry thoroughly. If you have trouble unrolling the document - you might try this ..... place an open container of water near the document in a large plastic bag and seal tightly. Let it sit for at least 2 days until the paper relaxes it's fibers so it may be unrolled safely.

Some useful objects on your desk may destroy information stored on your paper records, photographs and computer diskettes. The adhesive on pressure sensitive tapes, such as Scotch tape and Magic Mend, contain a great deal of acid and literally eat paper. This damage is irreversible and, at the very least, will leave acid stains on the paper.

Self-stick notes, such as Post-It-Notes, are a handy and efficient way of leaving messages and marking documents. The sticky top edges of the notes, however, leave behind an adhesive when the note is removed. Also the colors of the notes tend to run when wet, so they should not be used on papers of value.

Magnet paper clip holders magnetize the paper clips that are stored in them. If these clips are then used to attach a note to a diskette, for example, the magnetized clip can damage or erase the information on the diskette.

If you have an old document you want to preserve - if it is two sided, place it in a Mylar sleeve like the ones which have one side folded & you just slip the document in it. You might try the "L fold" ones but place it in very carefully. If it's one sided, still use the Mylar but place an acid free and buffered sheet of backing paper in to further prevent against migratory acid attack. In addition (before you do all this) you could de-acidify it, but don't use those home recipes you read about every now and then. The spray solutions on the market are quite safe and nonaqueous.

To display between pieces of glass, it is possible to have such things framed by a museum framing technique, which uses acid-free components and does not allow the glass to come in direct contact with the document. Any reputable framer should be able to do this. I have had this done, resulting in a beautiful and meaningful piece to display (away from direct light, please). If you want to do this yourself, materials are available. A catalog from University Products, Inc., 517 Main Street, P.O. Box 101, Holyoke, MA 01041-0101, provides a complete selection of archival materials for almost any preservation project one could imagine. They would send a catalog if requested.

If you are interested in preserving family papers and photos, the Library of Congress website has some good preservation information. The site is:

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