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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Preservation Week: 10 Tips For Your Collections (pt. 3)

Tip 6: Be Prepared For Disasters

We wrote about disaster preparedness for our May Day post. You should have a plan for yourself and your family in case of an emergency. And you should have one for your collectibles in case they are also affected. We won't list all the resources from our May Day post, but here are some that address personal collections.

Library of Congress "Preserving Treasures After the Disaster"
Council of State Archivists "Rescuing Family Records: A Disaster Planning Guide"

Tip 7: Preserving Non-paper Collections

So far our posts have dealt mostly with paper-based materials. We of course collect a lot of other things, too. All collections benefit from a controlled environment and good handling practices. While we do not have room here to address all non-print media, here are some tips for the common items in home collections. A good place to start looking for information on non-print materials is the AIC Specialty Groups.

Many of the dyes in textiles are sensitive to alkaline (basic) conditions. If you are choosing enclosures for your wedding or christening gowns, baby clothes and other textiles, choose enclosures and wrapping materials that are pH neutral. These can easily be obtained by perveyors of quality conservation supplies such as Gaylord Brothers, University Products, or Talas. Listing does not imply endorsement of any product or vendor.

Textiles are also very sensitive to environmental conditions. Food stains can attract hungry insects and high humidity can accelerate decay and attract mold. If you display textiles, but especially sure they are not exposed to light and pollutants (cooking vapors, dust, etc.). Cleaning should be undertaken very carefully and follow established conservation guidelines (read: consult a professional). See the AIC Textiles Specialty Group page for some good information.

Photographs and Home Movies
Photos and film are very sensitive to the environment around them. Dust, light, pollutants, and handling can cause irreparable damage. As with textiles, some photographic processes can be alkaline sensitive. While you will find debate on this, if you have a choice we recommend pH neutral enclosures. If all you can find are alkaline enclosures, they are better than no enclosures at all. Good quality film cans come in acceptable plastics which do not rust. We also recommend creating high quality facsimiles if you have important photographs you want to display, and you can digitize your home movies so you don't have to play the originals. Obviously do not throw away the originals once you reformat them.

Digital objects
We are creating digital materials at a fast clip these days. Photographs, documents, electronic scrapbook pages. These are all very fun and convenient for sharing and displaying, they are also very vulnerable. Digital documents are vulnerable to format and hardware obsolescence (video tape and CD's are soon to be obsolete), chemical instability, and unpredictable and often complete failure. For this reason we often recommend creating backups often and in the most current formats. For instance, if you have a lot of home movies on VHS videotape, it is time to transfer them to DVD or MPEG format.

Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. That is our mantra. Make digital copies, send them to family members, even print out documents now and then and put them in a safe place. Be sure to transfer your electronic documents each time you update platforms or software versions.


American Institute for Conservation "Caring For Your Treasures"

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