April 28th, 2015
Blog post by Lori Hostuttler, Digital Projects and Outreach Archivist, WVRHC.
At the West Virginia & Regional History Center, a critical part of our mission is to preserve the treasures of the state and region. We are actively working to make sure our collections will be available to future generations. Preservation Week, sponsored by the American Library Association’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, encourages everyone to think about the preservation of their personal, family, and community collections and also seeks to provide educational information and resources. Do you have a plan for preserving your old photos, scrapbooks, diaries, letters, or home movies? Does your neighborhood association, church, or social group have records that need to be organized and cared for so others can use them?
Basic preservation doesn’t have to be scary or hard. There are some simple ways you can extend the life of materials. Here are some easy and quick preservation tips compiled by ALCTS that can help you preserve your personal collections:
Temperature and Humidity:
- Do not store your keepsakes in the attic or basement.
- Keep them in a climate controlled part of your home.
- Avoid extremes in temperature and humidity.
Water damage can lead to colors bleeding. High humidity and high temperature can create the ideal environment for mold.
Typical recommendations include relative humidity between 40% and 65% and a temperature no greater than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Minimize handling and handle with care.
- Fully support items.
- Make sure your hands are clean.
- Protect items from dust, light, and handling with acid-free boxes, folders, or sleeves.
- Make copies – digital or photocopies.
- Distribute copies geographically (among family members for example).
- Store originals; use copies for display.
- Avoid plastic containers and sleeves that smell like a new shower curtain (PVC); types of safe and inert plastics includes polyethylene and polypropylene.
Label, Label, Label!
- One of the greatest risks to photographs and audiovisual recordings is poor or missing labels.
- Items are unidentifiable without a descriptive label.
- Use pencil when writing on the backs of photos.
- Identify people in full detail (instead of Mom, write Mom’s full name).
We don’t know who this woman is because the photo is not labeled—if you recognize her, let us know!
If you need help, ask someone and investigate online resources.
- Stop in to the West Virginia & Regional History Center or give us a call (304) 293-3536.
- Contact members of the Regional Alliance for Preservation.
- Look at the Preservation Leaflets from the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
- Check out the Library of Congress preservation resources.
- Find more information how to save your stuff on the Preservation Week
The tips listed above relate to print records, but in the digital age we also need to think about preserving our personal digital archives. Digital photos, videos and documents are a high risk for loss if you are not thinking long term. The Library of Congress has detailed information on preserving your digital memories. You might also want to check out the webinar, Digital Preservation for Individuals and Small Groups, which is free and airs live on Thursday, April 30 at 2 p.m. EST.