Saturday, December 20, 2008

Preservation Tips

Link to December 20 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Libraries archivist Michael Doylen says he got a "wow" handling a priceless James Joyce text annotated by the author himself.

Hundreds of thousands of readers got the same happy zap from Obama election newspapers. Customers snapped up extra printings of The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other historic election front pages on Nov. 5.

Or a memorable reaction can come simply from your child's handmade holiday card.

But the "wow" may not last long. Toss a paper keepsake into a pile, and in months it can yellow and crumble like papyrus from Tut's tomb. There are, however, some things you can do to keep paper keepsakes safe as you head into the new year.

Most printed paper "contains the seeds of its own destruction," says Doylen. Most paper, he says, is made from wood pulp material with a high degree of acidity. "As the materials are exposed to environmental conditions and light, it activates the chemical process in the paper and it starts to break down."

Doylan's suggestions:
1. Quickly decide what you want to keep.
2. Avoid extremes of heat and cold storage, i.e., basements and attics.
3. Use acid-free paper to separate pages.
4. Roll up t-shirts; use acid-free boxes for larger objects.
5. Keep handling to a minimum. ("Beware of family gatherings.")

For 32 years, I have kept a 1948 copy of a Springfield Massachusetts newspaper tightly wrapped in plastic and placed in a box (not acid-free) with other memorabilia. The last time I checked, it's still in good condition. The newspaper doesn't have any particular sentimental value, except for the fact that Springfield is my mom's hometown and I worked here for 2 1/2 years. The newspaper was purchased at the legendary Johnson's Second-Hand Bookstore.

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