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How to Care For Vellum and Parchment Documents

How to Care For Vellum and Parchment Documents

Many of my clients come to me for help preserving their historic vellum and parchment documents. One of the questions almost all clients ask is how they can care for their documents to preserve them for many generations to come, whether they are manuscripts or scrolls. My first recommendation is to be certain your vellum is stored in a climate-controlled environment. It is worthwhile to invest in a hygrometer and monitor the relative humidity of the environment. Since vellum and parchment are hygroscopic, meaning they will easily absorb moisture from the air, it is very important to keep the relative humidity within the 25-40% range. Maintaining a steady relative humidity is helpful as well, as this will help prevent expansion and contraction of the vellum, which can result in warping and cockling. Keeping the relative humidity below 40% also prevents potential mold growth.

If you are having your vellum manuscript framed, it is advised to locate a framer who will use the Chicago String Method, or related specialized framing methods, to help prevent warping and distortion of the vellum in the framing package over time. It is worthwhile to shop around and find a framer who is well-versed in handling vellum materials.

Lastly, I also recommend avoiding direct light or UV exposure. If you choose to place your document on display, please consider placing it in a room that does not have direct sunlight exposure. LED lighting is ideal, as it has the least impact on the vellum, but will still allow the needed light to view your historic artifact.

If you have questions about the care of your parchment document, or are wondering about what conservation treatment can do to preserve your historic manuscript, please submit an inquiry via the contact page on my website: