Preservation FAQs

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How do I repair my family Bible, cookbook, or other treasured item?
How do I clean my books?
I have books covered in worn leather. Should I apply oils or leather dressings?
How do I preserve my newspaper clippings?
Is there a single product or treatment I can use to preserve my family papers and photographs?
What is the best way to frame my old documents and photographs to preserve them?
How do I flatten a long, rolled-up photo?
What is the best way to preserve my family scrapbook and photo album?

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FAQs | TSLAC Conservation Blog


How do I repair my family Bible, cookbook, or other treasured item?

For conservation treatment of your personal belongings, please seek the help of a professional conservator.

If you live in the Austin or Central Texas area, a list of conservators in private practice is hosted by the University of Texas at Austin Harry Ransom Center.

If you live elsewhere, you can search for conservators nationwide by using an online tool provided by the American Institute for Conservation.


How do I clean my books?

Dust and insect droppings found inside and outside of books can be gently removed with a soft brush. Always brush away from your body. If you anticipate a large volume of dirt, work in a well-ventilated area or wear a dust mask.

Mold is a dangerous substance that can cause serious illness and respiratory problems. When dealing with mold, always wear a mask and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area.

Inactive mold is powdery and dry. Small amounts of it can be gently removed with a soft brush. Active mold is moist and may come in a variety of colors. If you encounter active mold or large amounts of inactive mold, do not endanger your health by undertaking treatment yourself. Contact a conservator to discuss mold remediation. (See resources under How do I repair my family Bible…?)


I have books covered in worn leather. Should I apply oils or leather dressings?

Oils and leather dressings were historically used to rehydrate or re-invigorate leather. Today, we know these products do more harm than good. While they may improve appearance temporarily, they can often cause long-term, irreversible damage. Over time, leather treated with oils and dressings can become discolored, desiccated, cloudy, or sticky.

If your leather is exceedingly fragile or afflicted by “red rot,” you may wish to house the book in a box or clear cover available from an archival supplier. (See resources under How do I preserve my newspaper clippings?) You may also wish to consult a conservator. (See resources under How do I repair my family Bible…?)


How do I preserve my newspaper clippings?

Newsprint was designed to be inexpensive and easy to manufacture. Unfortunately, it was not designed to last a long time. Newsprint usually contains acidic, low-quality wood pulp and lignin. This means the paper will turn brown and brittle with age.

You can help manage newsprint's inherent deterioration by storing it in archival-quality folders and boxes. These storage materials are acid-free, lignin-free, and often buffered. They provide physical and environmental protection for fragile materials, and can help absorb harmful acids. Boxes and folders are available from archival suppliers, including:


Is there a single product or treatment I can use to preserve my family papers and photographs?

There are commercially available, proprietary sprays and liquids that will neutralize the acidity in paper. This process is also known as de-acidification. We strongly recommend that these treatments be carried out only by a qualified conservator. While the neutralization of acid in paper can be one aspect of preservation, there is no one cure-all that will ensure the survival of a paper document.

De-acidification sprays are not designed for photographic materials, will not provide any benefit, and may cause damage. Other types of sprays, such as lacquers, varnishes, or plastic coatings, should never be applied to valuable photographs.


What is the best way to frame my old documents and photographs to preserve them?

Proper matting and framing of a document or photograph using only archival materials can be a strategy for protecting an original. However, light exposure is one of the worst enemies of paper and photographs. If the goal of framing is to display the item, especially for extended periods, then framing is likely to accelerate deterioration.


How do I flatten a long, rolled-up photo?

Snapshots and smaller photos may curl for a variety of reasons, but this condition is often associated with long, panoramic prints. In the early 20th century, large format panoramic photos were commonly used to document school, military and meeting groups. Unless the print was purchased already framed, it was most often delivered and stored rolled. Many years of rolled memory makes it nearly impossible to unroll the print without damage – usually cracking the emulsion and fracturing the paper base.

A qualified conservator can humidify, flatten, and stabilize a rolled photographic print. (See resources under How do I repair my family Bible…?)


What is the best way to preserve my family scrapbook and photo album?

The paper and other materials used to manufacture scrapbooks and photo albums have traditionally been of very poor quality. Additionally, a wide variety of adhesives may be employed.

In order to respect and benefit from the arrangement of items in an album, photographic documentation should always be made. In fact, a photographic facsimile of the album that can be shared among family members may be one of the best strategies for continued preservation.

Disassembling a scrapbook or album is a decision that should be made in consultation with a qualified conservator who can offer options for treatment and reformatting. (See resources under How do I repair my family Bible…?)

Preservation information provided by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission is intended only as a general guideline for collections care. The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is not responsible for any damage that might occur in the specific application of this information.
 

Page last modified: February 29, 2012