Preservation Tips and Resources for Personal and Family Collections
Do you have family heirlooms, historical documents, genealogical information, or other collections that document your life and/or your family’s history? Are you unsure about how to care for these materials or concerned they might not survive for your descendants? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then keep reading for preservation tips and online resources.
Here are seven general guidelines for protecting personal and family collections (from a National Preservation Week poster by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services, American Library Association).
- Handle with a clean, gentle touch: Protect items from dust, dirt, oil, food, and other hazards by handling them carefully and with clean hands.
- Store safely in stable conditions: Protect your treasures from light, harsh temperatures, and humidity. Learn what storage options are right for your collections.
- Foresee and avoid possible risks: Assess storage and display surroundings for potential problems like water, pests, mold, and breakage. Relocate your collections or take other measures (for example, put items in protective containers) to reduce risks.
- Make a duplicate: Copy treasures like photographs, newspapers, and letters when possible and appropriate. Store the original safely and use the copy. Digital copies allow items to be easily shared, but remember digital items need preservation, too.
- Ask a professional: Seek professional advice before trying at-home repairs or cleaning treasures yourself.
- Visit a local library, museum, or archive: Consult a librarian, museum professional, or archivist for assistance and additional information about preserving your collections. You can contact staff members at the DRT Library by phone at (210) 225-1071, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting during regular business hours. We’ll do the best we can to answer your questions!
- Pass it on: Share your treasures with your family and community. Your heritage is their heritage.
For more detailed information about how to care for particular types of materials, explore the websites listed below. These are just some of the online preservation resources that are available.
- American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: “Caring for Your Treasures”
- Library of Congress, “Caring for Your Collections”; “Preparing, Protecting, Preserving Family Treasures”; “Need a Conservator?”; “Need an Appraiser?”
- National Archives and Records Administration: “Caring for Your Family Archives”
Finally, if you’re thinking about donating your collection to an archive, check out the “Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository” by the Society of American Archivists.