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How to Preserve Your Genealogical Documents

Are you the history buff of your family? Do you have a strong interest in genealogy and your family tree? If so, you may have gathered a collection of documents and bound volumes like scrapbooks, journals or family bibles.

How best do you care for those pieces of your family history? The following are a list of recommendations to help guide the care and handling of your family heirlooms:

FOR DOCUMENTS:

  1. Store away from light, where possible. If on display, avoid exposure to direct sunlight, as UV rays are especially damaging to paper over time. LED lighting is preferred.
  2. Store your documents in a climate-controlled environment: a relative humidity between 35-50% is ideal. Mold growth can proliferate if the RH exceeds 60%. Avoid storing papers in basements or attics, due to potential moisture exposure and extreme fluctuations in temperature.
  3. Storing documents in folders is often preferred. I recommend purchasing acid-free archival folders from companies such as Gaylord or University Products. Below is a link to folders available from Gaylord:

https://www.gaylord.com/c/Archival-Folders

4. If your folders contain multiple documents, consider layering buffered interleaving papers between them to prevent exposure to acidity.

5. If your historical documents are damaged, do not apply tape to them, and please do not laminate them. The adhesives in tape and lamination are incredibly damaging to paper, and often quite difficult to remove. The accelerate the aging of the documents they are applied to. Consider consulting with a professional conservator if repair of the documents is required. See the end of this article for more details on that topic.

FOR BOUND VOLUMES: Bibles, Scrapbooks, Journals, Cookbooks, Etc.

  1. Store away from light, where possible. If on display, avoid exposure to direct sunlight, as UV rays are especially damaging to books over time. LED lighting is preferred.
  2. Store your volumes in a climate-controlled environment: a relative humidity between 35-50% is ideal. Mold growth can proliferate if the RH exceeds 60%. Avoid storing books in basements or attics, due to potential moisture exposure and extreme fluctuations in temperature.
  3. Is the volume coming to pieces? Are the boards or spine detached? Consider purchasing an economical archival enclosure such as a clamshell or phase box from University Products. These custom sized archival board enclosures can be created to allow you to store your bound volumes on a book shelf. You can even have the title and author printed on the “spine” of the box if you like. Below is a link to some of the clamshell boxes that are offered by University Products:

https://www.universityproducts.com/perma-dur-barrier-board-clamshell-boxes.html

4. Loose pages or ephemera can be stored in an archival folder or Mylar envelope inside the clamshell as well.

5. Scrapbooks and family bibles often have condition issues that need to be addressed before they can be safely handled. These issues can include broken binding structures, fragile pages, tears to the paper, non-archival tape repairs, etc.

If your family documents or volumes are in need of evaluation and potential repair or restoration, it is best to consult with a trained conservator. Feel free to contact my studio for a complimentary evaluation and estimate via the contact form on my website:

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