Preservation Guidelines

Examples of Damage

Causes of Damage

Prevention

FAQs

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FAQs

I have some old family documents and newspaper clippings, how can I preserve them?

Protect documents, photographs, and newsprint from excessive heat, humidity, and pollution. Avoid exposure to light and store in an archival quality enclosure. This usually means folders and boxes that are acid-free, lignin-free and buffered.

Photographs should be stored in a polyester (PE) sleeve or pocket; never use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) enclosures. Newsprint is generally unstable and acidic. Storing it in direct contact with another paper document can result in acid migration to the adjacent document. Keep the newsprint in a polyester (PE) sleeve or pocket. It is recommended that a copy be made on a good quality paper.

What is the best way to store books at home?

Books should be stored in a dry location (no pipes overhead) away from windows and direct light. Maintain a steady temperature and humidity, ideally not more than 23 degrees C and 55% RH. Environmental conditions with even lower temperature and humidity will increase the longevity of the books.

Place books on smooth strong shelves. Most wood is NOT ideal for bookshelves because it can release acids that will damage the books. If wooden shelves cannot be avoided, place a barrier between the bottom of the book and the wood to prevent direct contact. Good quality powder coated steel shelving is a safer option. Keep books of similar size together and make use of bookends to prevent the books from falling over.

How can I eliminate a musty odor from books?

Eliminating odors from books is difficult and time consuming. Some suggestions that might help are the following:

  • Place the books in a cooler and drier environment and increase the air circulation;
  • Brief exposure to sunlight and outdoor air might help reduce the odor, but this can cause other problems such as fading and/or darkening of the paper and cloth. Use this method with caution;
  • Place the musty books in a sealed container with odor-absorbent material, such as charcoal, unscented clay kitty litter, or baking soda. Do not place the books directly on the absorbent material.
  • Interleaving the book with MicroChamber® paper, which contains zeolite molecular traps, has been known to reduce odors. Place a sheet of the paper every 20–50 pages and leave in place until the odor is reduced. It might be necessary to replace the paper.

What should I do if my book gets wet?

A wet book should be dried as soon as possible in order to prevent mold growth. Stand the book open on the top or bottom edge on a paper towel or other absorbent material. Change the blotter when it is wet and turn the book as it dries. Keep air circulating with a fan, but do not point it directly at the book.  Using a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in the room can speed up the drying process and lessen the risk of mold. If you have too many wet books to dry within the first 48 hours, it might be necessary to put them in a freezer and dry them in batches.

If the book has paper that is clay-coated (the shiny thick paper found in many magazines and glossy illustrated books often has a surface coating that acts like an adhesive when wet) it is important to act immediately and to place baking paper or other non-stick paper between every page. If clay-coated paper becomes wet, as it dries the surface coating will irreversibly fuse the pages together.

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