MayDay in the Archives (a belated post)

May 1st has become known as MayDay in the archives world. Every year on May 1st, archivists and other cultural heritage professionals take time to assess the preservation needs of their collections and amend glaring problems.

In acknowledgement of MayDay, we would like to take this opportunity to communicate some quick tips for preserving your own archival materials at home. We will focus on relaying basic information for care and storage of the three most commonly saved items: scrapbooks, photographs, and documents.

Scrapbooks

Albums of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera weave a narrative of family history. However, the materials from which many scrapbooks are constructed can be harmful. Adhesives, dated plastic sheets, and newspaper accelerate deterioration of photographs and documents.

Harvard Sq trolley men

This image of Harvard Square trolley workers show how over time, adhesive can cause document and photographs to pull and create ripples.

We recommend scanning your scrapbook pages to create a digital surrogate, or removing items in danger of damage. If you want to keep your scrapbooks intact, make sure to store them in a dark area with a lower temperature (at least below 75° and at 65° if possible) and a lower relative humidity (below 65%). Often, linen closets work well for this purpose! Store your scrapbooks in a box made of acid free-materials.

Photographs

Printed images communicate stories and are seen as proof of events and past existence. Yet, the people and places within these images can quickly fade if not taken care of properly.

Interior View: 33 Washington Avenue

This photograph has begun to yellow, likely due to the acidic paper to which it is mounted.

Photographs should be placed inside acid-free folders or archival plastic sleeves and kept inside in a dark room or closet with a lower temperature and relative humidity.

If your photographs have been rolled for a long period of time and are now stuck, consult a professional who can humidify and flatten your print safely. If you scan your photographs, you will be able to view it whenever you like, and lessen the effects of UV and humidity on your physical prints.

Documents

Documents such as letters, postcards, and paper records provide us with descriptions and evidence. Often, these items are unique and become more fragile over time. If you have paper in your family collection, separate pages from harmful materials such as newspaper or staples.

membership_card001

The acidic paper of this Signet Hosiery Company membership book has begun to yellow, and the staples are in danger of rusting if not kept in a cool, dry place.

Like scrapbooks and photographs, make sure to store your documents in a cool and dry location (not an attic or basement). Store documents in acid-free containers, ideally inside folders and a box.

If you would like to learn more about how to preserve documents, photographs, scrapbooks, or other materials you may have, contact our archivist, Emily at egonzalez@cambridgema.gov or 617.349.4683.

Advertisements