How do I keep old family papers preserved?

I have old family papers that I would like to keep safe. Can you give me advice about how to keep them preserved?

Responses

The best thing to do to preserve paper records is to protect the documents from damaging environmental influences such as continuous exposure to light, extremes of heat and moisture, and direct handling of the objects. Damage from light is cumulative and irreversible, and can cause not only fading of inks but yellowing, bleaching, or darkening of paper.

When handling, prepare a clean dry draft-free space and have clean dry hands (remember not to use hand cream after washing hands!). Turn pages carefully, if anything resists turning, don't force it or fold it back on itself. Cover materials or put them away to protect them from light when not in use. Save original wrapping materials or envelopes as they may help with identification. Do not write or use tape or adhesives on the documents.

We do not recommend the use of preventative chemical treatments by the general public—rather, we suggest proper storage in suitable enclosures, in a good environment at <70 deg F and at a set point between 35-50% relative humidity (RH), for long-term preservation (you can get inexpensive RH monitors almost any hardware or household store). It has been shown that a stable storage environment is better than one which cycles frequently, so the innermost part of a house, located away from exterior walls and direct sources of light or humidity, is best for long-term storage of an item. If you would like to display the item, please see our advice about framing and display.

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