Protecting Your Family’s History – Day 2

July 18, 2014 10am-12pm

As I walked into the classroom today I saw a two table spread of archival materials: acid free folders, acid free boxes, L-sleeves, mylar plastic photograph pages, magic erasers, and a blue photograph pen. Lynda had also set out three different archival supply catalogs for students to look through; among the catalogs was Hollinger Metal Edge, located in Fredricksburg, Virginia, it is Lynda’s favorite supply company. Hollinger, she noted, has exceptional customer service (you can call them and describe what you want to preserve and they will steer you in the right direction). Attached here is a copy of the Resources List Lynda provided in class today, complete with three suggested archival suppliers: Resources List

If, however, you do not want to spend money on archival supplies you can try a few things:

  • regular file folders found at your local Wal-Mart or Target are oftentimes acid free.
  • Instead of buying an acid free archival box (shoe box size) you can use a regular shoe box and line it with tissue paper.
  • Blue archival pencils are used to write on the backs of photographs, but you can use a fine tipped, non-bleed Sharpie.
  • When framing photographs make sure to use UV glass; you can also request archival matting and framing of your photographs from a local framing company.

Tip on wet/moldy documents: if you don’t have the time or money to deal with wet or moldy documents place them in the freezer until you do have time. Freezing the documents ensures that they do not become more damaged than they already are. Also, if you have a document or documents that smell funny, perhaps from mold, place the documents in a plastic bin filled with cat litter and baking soda. The cat litter and baking soda will absorb the majority of the bad smell!

Each student brought in or described an item they would like to preserve; they mainly focused on oddly shaped items or ones they weren’t sure how to approach. One item was an old photograph (around 75 years old) that was in a large, oval shaped frame that bowed out. The photo had been in the frame since the day it was taken and was in beautiful condition. The owner, however, was worried about the photo turning yellow or being destroyed and wondered if she should remove it from the frame. Lynda’s advice was that if the student enjoyed having the photo framed on her wall (the frame was part of the emotional connection to it) and it was in good condition then she should continue to enjoy it without removing it from the frame. One tip from Lynda is that you must FIRST think about WHERE you will keep an item before you think about protecting it to the fullest extent. Ideally, the student’s photo should be removed and laid flat in an acid free box and sleeve, but this photo was large and an odd shape, plus it was in excellent condition and held a great deal of emotional value to the student; in this case the student should leave the photo as is. The photo isn’t just an historical document, but a memory, a story, and a connection to a loved one no longer with that family.

Another student had some jewelry from her great uncle that he had made (over 100 years old): best thing to do if she didn’t want to wear it or exhibit it in her home is to wrap it in tissue paper and place it in a plain old shoebox or an archival box. This same student also had a piece of French lace from her grandmother; the lace had been a cover for her grandmothers piano keys. She loved this lace and wanted to have it out to touch and see, to remember her grandmother, but she was nervous about it being damaged. Because she was so attached to this item it was suggested that she keep it in plain view so that she can see it and touch it and have that emotional connection. When she chooses to place it out of her view she should wrap it up in tissue paper and place it in a box. Tissue paper seems to be pretty key!

Lynda passed out one more document called “Preserving Family Documents and Photographs” by the National Archives Preservation Programs. You can find that document here: Preserving Family Documents

Two videos about conservation:



2 responses to “Protecting Your Family’s History – Day 2

  1. Great tips and information!! You may become the go to site for resources if you keep posting such valuable information from your sessions and classes. You are doing an amazing blog job this summer.

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