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    American Archives Month!

    October is American Archives Month! Here are some of the top questions we get here in the Kentucky Room concerning preservation and conservation:

    How do I preserve my family photographs?

    Store them individually in archival quality envelopes. Use soft pencils to write on photographs, not ink pens. Avoid storing them in areas that get overheated, such as attics. Make sure to get them digitized at some point in can something happens to the originals.

    How do I preserve my family documents?

    Laminate them! Just kidding, please, please do NOT laminate old documents. The process can’t be reversed, and the heat and chemicals from the plastic will speed up deterioration. Instead, store them in archival quality folders and boxes. Store them flat or upright and unfold anything that can be unfolded. Remove any staples or paperclips, which will rust and eat up the paper. Again, avoid storing them in areas with extreme heat or humidity.

    How do I preserve old newspapers?

    Basically, the same as old documents. Keep in mind though that newspapers are made from a different type of paper. They were not meant to be kept forever. They were meant to be read and then thrown out afterwards. They deteriorate much, much quicker than other paper materials. If you really want to keep them, make sure they are separated from other documents. They will stain them and cause them to also deteriorate quicker.  

    You keep saying “archival quality.” What does that mean?

    Archival quality products are made without the same chemicals that normal office products are made of. Look for products that are P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test) approved, which is a test to see how quickly a product will accelerate the deterioration process. Other keywords to look for are acid free, lignin free, and buffered. These are more expensive than your basic office supplies, so focus on trying to make sure that whatever is in direct contact with the photograph/document is archival quality.

    Do I need to wear gloves when handling old photographs/documents?

    Gloves are only necessary when handling photographs, or anything glass. For everything else, clean, dry hands are fine.

    What about appraisal? Can you tell me how much this heirloom is worth?

    Archivists cannot do monetary appraisals. It is part of the Code of Ethics for archivists. We focus more on the intrinsic and historical value of an item. The only advice I can give on this is that old does not automatically equal “worth a lot of money.”

    If you have any other questions, stop by the Kentucky Room on the first floor.

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