How do store old letters and newspaper clippings?
Q. Dear Donia,
I have inherited all of my mothers photos, letters, documents and newspaper clippings. I am trying to preserve all of it. I would like to know the best way to store old letters and newspaper clippings. Some say put them in polyester sleeves others say that will increase the acidity being inside plastic sleeves. It would allow them to cook in their own juices so to speak. So what do I do? Putting them in sleeves would be easier than laying them in an acid free box interlaced with acid free paper. I am also scanning all of it to put in an album to view. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, Carol
A. Dear Carol,
How wonderful that your mother saved all of these items! I hope your photos are better identified than the ones I got from my grandmother. You are correct that there is debate about storing paper documents in polyester sleeves. I do think that there is the possibility of increased deterioration of items in sleeves but I know that sometimes you need to compromise so here is mine. Items that are stable and not torn or otherwise fragile can go into an archival (acid-free, lignin-free, buffered) folder. You can put multiple letters in a folder (by year or month depending on how many you have) without interleaving if they are stable. Letters that are fragile, brittle, or breaking at the folds can be put into polyester sleeves for safer handling. It may increase their deterioration but if they are so fragile they cannot be handled, the increased deterioration shouldn't be noticeable and at least you can handle them.
As for the newspaper clippings, their chemically unstable nature causes problems for preservation. If you want to keep these clippings in paper format, I would photocopy them or print them from your scans. The copy/printer paper will be more stable, especially if a bond paper is used.
For any of these items (photos, letters, documents, and clippings), the best practice once they are organized is to store them somewhere in the main part of your house. Attics and basements are poor choices because the environment, like plastic sleeves, will increase the rate of deterioration, not to mention the risk of pests and flooding. For help in organizing your collection, you can read "The Unofficial Family Archivist" by Melissa Mannon.
I hope this helps with your concerns. If any more come up during this project, please don't hesitate to contact Dear Donia again!