Care of Manuscripts and Photographs

  • Store books, family papers, photographs and prints in a location in your home where the temperature and relative humidity are moderate, where clean air and good circulation are present; and where there is as little natural or fluorescent light as possible. Like humans, paper documents do best in a cool, dry, stable environment.
  • Avoid storing your books, papers, and photographs in your attic where temperatures can sometimes soar in summer heat. Keep your heirlooms away from heat sources such as furnaces, fireplaces, and radiators. Basements should be avoided as well. Cold temperatures and dampness can cause deterioration.
  • Keep valuable papers and books away from direct sun light, florescent light, or bright light of any kind. Light causes fading. To display your heirlooms, select buffered mats and backing and UV filtered glass. Framing items properly can help protect them from the damaging effects of dirt, dust, and indoor pollution.
  • Newsprint is made from wood pulp that is highly acidic, leading to yellowing and brittleness.To preserve newspaper clippings, purchase buffered paper and photocopy the original.
  • Before storing valuable letters and documents, unfold them and store them flat in buffered folders. Fibers weaken along fold lines. Repeated folding and unfolding will eventually cause tearing along the folds.

  • Remove rubber bands and metal fasteners. Over time rubber bands deteriorate and leave residue on your valuable documents. Use plastic clips that don’t rust or cause deterioration to your documents.To remove staples, use a thin knife blade to open the staple ends. Slide the blade beneath the staple or use a tweezers to lift the staple. Staple removers can often damage or tear paper.
  • To display your photographs in an album, use mounting corners rather than tape or glue. Avoid self-sealing plastic albums that can deteriorate, react with, or stick to your photographs. Look for a high quality album with buffered paper or use polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyester pages. Avoid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pages. Preservation-grade polyester, is known by brand names like Melinex 516 or Mylar D. Because Mylar D and Melinex 516 are inert, they are excellent for the storage of documents and photographs.

  • Consider purchasing boxes, albums, enclosures, paper, and other supplies that are of archival quality. Archival quality enclosures will help support your keepsakes. Archival boxes with snug fitting lids and no openings will help protect your precious documents from the deterioration caused by dirt, pollutants, and light. In addition, they will not chemically interact with your documents.

Some of the best known preservation suppliers are: 

  • University Products: Website 
  • Light Impressions: Website
  • Gaylord Archival: Website
  • Archivart: P.O. Box 428, Moonachie, NJ 07074; Phone: 201-804-8986