Slowing the March of Time:
Preserving and Protecting Items of Personal and Historical Significance
Specific storage ideas to conserve your keepsakes:
CD - Being a new format, not much is
known for sure, so follow record information.
Computer diskettes - Keep away from magnetic and electrical fields, discard any plastic sleeves - store in acid free sleeves.
Flat paper (loose materials) - Store flat when possible, interleave with acid free paper (acid can migrate), place in acid free (clearly labeled with pencil or waterproof ink) folders, then in acid free boxes (file cabinets are OK - just don't overfill, or leave ajar drawers, etc.) Rolling may become necessary for large items. Do not roll too tightly - roll around at least a 4" diameter tube, wrapped in archival paper or polyester film jacket and secured with un-dyed fabric tape or cloth.
Furniture - Use as little as possible and keep joints tight, cover surfaces if possible (chair cushions, etc.), if finish is worn, take action. Try to keep clean without cleaning products - dust often, use damp cloth, etc.
House wares - Pack with acid free paper or clean cloth, if displayed, do so with proper support in enclosed space (china cabinet, etc.).
Jewelry - Place in lined boxes, monitor condition and keep in good repair, remember, body oil speeds tarnish. (Pearls - massage with mineral oil annually)
Magnetic tape (cassettes) - Keep away from magnetic and electrical fields, dust, heat and high RH, keep playback machine in top order to avoid stretching.
Microfilm/fiche - If converting items to information: choose a polyester base format (most stable). Never use rubber bands for securing (cut acid free paper strips to wrap around), store on plastic reel in acid free boxes/sleeves, if possible store in metal filing cabinets. If film has picked up a vinegar smell, it is chemically deteriorating - isolate, because it can spread. Look into re-filming or professional restoration - lower temperature and RH can slow the process but not stop it.
Motion pictures - Store at a lower temperature & RH (40F-25-40 RH), in filtered area free of dust, lint, etc. Store in vented polypropylene or high quality, vapor permeable cardboard containers. Only show prints - do not project originals.
Photos - RH ideal 35% - though this could be harmful to other keepsakes. Storage in paper or plastic has pros & cons. For plastic use uncoated polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene or cellulose triacetate, non-buffered (to promote acid transfer from photos), acid free paper for color, cyanotypes or albumen prints. Use buffered paper for early safety film negatives brittle prints or mounts. Ideally only handled with lint-less cotton or nylon gloves. Do not roll or crease, never use paper clips, adhesives (even post-its) or staples.
WARNING: plastic film negatives from 1890-1950 may have nitrate film. These should be separated from other items. As cellulose nitrate deteriorates, it becomes highly combustible. No easy way to tell, contact professional if you suspect some of your collection.
Records - store vertically, don't touch surface - direct sunlight or overheating can cause warping.
Textiles - Only hang very light items without support. Store clothing & linens in boxes, interleaved with acid free paper or clean cloth. Wish to hang a tapestry? Mount as you would a painting. Consult a dry cleaner that specializes in preserving wedding dresses.
Video - being inherently impermanent it will deteriorate over time. Keep away from magnetic and electrical fields, don't touch tape directly, keep in storage containers, and go easy on the fast forward & reverse.
Page Last Updated: December 15, 2016
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