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Subject: [FAMILIA] Saving Your Family Treasures: Four Destructive Habits
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2008 09:54:33 -0800

Information Series on Genealogy %%%%%%%%%%%
This article is another of a series that I will present to the group for
information, education, or to enlighten.

List Administrator
Saving Your Family Treasures: Four Destructive Habits, by Maureen Taylor
Some of the worst damage to our family photographs and documents occurs
in the name of preservation. There are a lot more than four destructive
habits that cause our family history treasures to deteriorate, but the
ones listed here are commonly done by the most well-meaning genealogists.
There is no debate on what you should do before looking at photographs
and documents. Wash your hands with soap and water then dry them
completely. This removes the dirt and oils you could leave behind during
handling. In some archives they make you wear cotton gloves and in others
clean dry hands are enough. I prefer wearing gloves, because not only
will protect your pictures from the naturally occurring oils present on
your hands, but you won’t transfer surface grime from one photo or
document to another. Try the white glove test with your pictures. You
won’t believe how dirty documents and pictures get from hanging around
for a hundred years! I always wash my gloves after wearing them.
If you don’t know where to buy some inexpensive supplies search “white
cotton gloves” in an online search engine to locate vendors. I recently
ordered a dozen for around $8.00. That’s enough so that you can give a
pair to all the photographers and genealogists in your family.
Poor Storage Areas
Probably the most common question I’m asked is where to store photographs
and documents. The best place is often the hardest to find—a windowless
closet away from exterior walls and water pipes. I don’t have one of
those in my house, so I create a better environment by nesting one box of
photographs in a larger box. The buffer created by the outside box helps
prevent fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Many folks have written
to me about their storage dilemmas. It’s difficult to locate just the
right spot in your house that protects valuable family items from
damaging heat, light, and humidity. Trust me. Basements, attics and
garages make convenient storage places, but in the long-term you’ll end
up destroying the material you’re trying to save.
Here’s a perfect present for the keeper of family materials. Buy them a
selection of reinforced boxes made from acid- and lignin-free board from
a company such as Hollinger Corporation.
Several times a year I receive a question about laminating photographs
and important papers. This technique falls into the NEVER category of how
to save family treasures. Lamination consists of poor quality plastics,
adhesive and heat. This trio is toxic to anything you laminate, and it
can’t be reversed. Anything laminated slowly deteriorates due to the
glue, the chemicals in the plastic, and the ingredients of the item
you’re trying to save.
Instead try encapsulation. This process uses two sheets of non-PVC
plastic or mylar, a safe adhesive strip and no heat. You can order a kit
with all the necessary supplies from Carr McLean
or buy items separately through companies like Light Impressions.
Unless you want your pictures and documents to end up in an estate sale
you should take time to label them. Before you reach for a gel pen or
other writing tool think about whether that utensil is light-fast,
waterproof, and permanent. If you want to write on a heritage photo all
you need is a soft lead pencil available in any art, craft, or office
supply store. If however, you’re trying to caption a picture with a
plastic coating then you’ll need something like a Zig marker also readily
available at any of those outlets. Along with the cotton gloves, give the
genealogist on your list one of each. Then offer to help them label all
those family photos and documents. Just write on the back in the upper,
left-hand corner.
For photographs, include the name of the person in the portrait, their
life dates, and when the photo was taken. Don’t worry that you don’t have
all the answers, put down what you know. On documents, include the name
of the person who wrote it and when. Scrapbook hobbyists might want to
compose an extended caption that actually tells the story of the item.
Think about the wonderful family history kit you can put together—gloves,
boxes, and writing utensils for that special person on your list. You can
find additional information on preserving family history treasures on
Sally Jacob’s blog.

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