Tips For Preserving Old Books

Just about everyone has some special paper item which they would like to preserve. Be it a rare book, a family heirloom, a special love letter, or other important historical documents. Protecting these treasures from threat of destruction or damage is important to us. There are numerous contaminates and destructive properties which can harm your prized possessions. Some are obvious such as fire and water. Others are less known about, such as chemical and dust contamination, biological hazards, light, and folding. Without knowledge of the correct method to store and protect your valuables you will be unable to determine how much of an extended life they will be able to endure. Here are a few tips to help you preserve your old books, letters, newspapers and other treasured paper possessions.
To protect and preserve your collectibles from fire, storage in a fire proof box, safe, or filing cabinet is your best bet. The storage container should be packed as tightly as possible to prevent bending and creasing of the document. The more items you pack inside the container, the less air will be present, and without air, it is unlikely that fire will be able to infiltrate the container.
To protect from chemical and dust contamination valuable papers should be stored in Mylar sleeves or acid free folders. Acid free folders are the preferable protection medium. Dust is an abrasive and will cause damage to a paper’s surfaces. The oils and acids that are on your hands will also harm paper documents, that is another reason why they should be stored in transparent sleeves and folders. Wearing latex, nitrile or white cotton gloves while handling these documents can further serve to extend their life. Prior to placing your paper documents into the Mylar sleeve or acid free folder, a can of compressed air should be used to blow all dust and dirt from their surface.
Biological hazards which can destroy and consume paper possessions are rarely thought about, however they exist and are often the greatest destroyers’ of paper documents. Humidity, mold, and insects are your paper documents greatest enemies. Avoid storing your valuable papers in attics and basements. Storage in a bedroom closet is usually better. All documents should be checked on a regular basis for signs of discoloration, musty smells and other indications of biological damage.
If you notice signs of these damages, it is best to reappraise the method you are using to store your documents. The affected pages should be cleaned by dusting them with compressed air and allowed to thoroughly dry. Next move them to a less humid location and enclose them in a sealed polyethylene container such as an air tight plastic Tupperware or Rubbermaid tub. Prior to placing them in these tubs, your valuable books and papers should be placed in acid free boxes and the boxes sealed in two polyethylene bags.
Exposure to light will fade the documents ink and over time render it unreadable. Storage in a dark location, displaying the document between UV protected glass or film, draping a piece of cloth over the document to protect it from excess room light and never aiming bright light directly at the document for long periods of time will retard fading. Folds weaken paper documents and are the areas that will show signs of damage first. All paper documents should be stored flat whenever possible to prevent fold damage.
To preserve your collectibles, family heirloom documents and other prized paper possession for extended life takes work. Care must be exercised to enable these documents will be preserved as long as they are needed and wanted. The techniques used to maintain the documents should be handed down just as the documents are to ensure their availability for future generations.

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