Preserving Historic Postcard Collection

Historic postcardsDear Donia,
How can my library preserve and display historic postcards?

Q. Dear Donia,

My public library has a collection of historic postcards. A local resident was a member of one of those exchanges and received cards from people all over the country. Currently they're just stored in a couple of wooden and cardboard boxes. We're slowly scanning them for the state digital archive, but how can we best store/preserve/display the physical copies? Thanks, Heather    

A. Dear Heather,

What a fun collection to have giving a glimpse into an age where people wrote actual notes rather than emails!

I am guessing that these won't necessarily get used a lot once they are digitized? If this is the case, you will want to store them in a postcard box similar to this one from Hollinger Metal Edge. If you have real photo postcards, you will want to protect those with the polyester envelopes on the same page as the boxes.

If you want to be able to allow people access to the postcards, you can use 4x6 photo pages and a 3-ring box album. This way people can page through them and see both front and back without having to handle the postcards unnecessarily.

Either box or binder would ideally be stored in an environment that had a stable temperature and relative humidity and not in a location that is prone to floods.

For display, you will want to mat and mount the postcards with stable and reversible materials in an area away from direct sunlight. To start, you will want to use archival mat board. The best to look for is what we call museum rag board. If you are doing the matting and framing yourself, please take a look at the leaflet from the Northeast Document Conservation Center on "How to Do Your Own Matting and Hinging." This helpful guide will let you know how to best mount the postcards so they will be safe for generations to come.

As for the glazing, you will want to look for glass or Plexiglas that has UV blocking properties. TruVue glass and Acrylite Plexi are two examples. Choosing between glass and Plexi depends on what you want. Glass will be clearer, hold less of a static charge, and be more resistant to scratching but is heavier and not recommended for areas prone to earthquakes.  

I hope this helps and if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask Dear Donia!