One of the many important tasks that you frequently undertake during the course of genealogy is document and photo preservation. This can be quite intimidating; it need not be. You can do it to without special tools and without an exorbitant expense. I could write a whole book about it, and may in fact do just that in the near future. For today, I will just discuss newspaper clipping preservation. I will touch on it step-by-step and show how to get the most out of these factual archives.
5 Steps To Preserving News Clippings
The documents and photos that you have probably have a limited shelf life of less than 20 or 30 years without some form of preservation being practiced. Newspapers are typically printed on lower quality, high acidity pulp; typically having an even shorter lifespan. Light, air pollution, and humidity will cause the paper to decay and the ink to fade. There is a wide variety of levels that can be undertaken. At the one extreme, you can purchase fabulous state of the art archival materials from respected vendors such as Gaylord or Hollinger Metal Edge. However, if you are anything like me, the cost of these materials may be out of your everyday budget.
With a little bit of ingenuity and thought, you can afford to preserve your news clippings at more reasonable and moderate price. Consider the goals that an occupational archivist might seek to lengthen the durability of their artifacts. By following in their footsteps; using their methods as a guide, you ought to be able to duplicate some of their results. This is where intimidation sets in for myself. Personally, I always worried about destroying these rare news clippings. They are so fragile and I don't have the airtight chambers, special sprays or pastes to repair documents, or any of the same special handling tools. Oh dear, will I destroy these historical artifacts?
I got over this concern once I realized that if I did nothing, these documents and the information they contained would certainly be destroyed by time. I could not afford to wait until retirement decades from now; I could not wait until I had money or time. If I waited, documents like these news clippings would be too degraded to archive. The only way to save them was to engage now.
You have to use whatever you have available. If you have access to page protectors and can't find anything better, go ahead and use it. If you only have access to old photo albums with duckies on the cover and cannot afford to buy a new binder or album, then use the ducky album.
Try to help your documents last longer; follow along with the goals of those occupational archivists. For example, if you have to use off-the-shelf retail page protectors and have a choice between acid and acid-free, pick the acid free. If you have the ability use an acid-free backing board with it, that's great. If you can't afford to get acid-free backing boards, then using any cardstock from Staples to provide support to your document is probably better than nothing at all.
Special Note: I have been told that transparent Scotch tape and sticky lamination can be very destructive to a newspaper. In some cases, they can cause more damage to a document then nothing at all. Be very judicious and try to consider alternatives before putting these onto your documents.
To give you a better idea about bootstrapping your newspaper clipping preservation, let me walk you through some steps of what I recently with an artifact.
Steps Taken In Preservation
1) Get The Materials Together: Plan out what you will need and what you have available before you start. My artifact was an old newspaper clipping from the 1920s. I did not have any photo holders or protective sleeves that were the right size. I had some acid-free comic book bags and acid-free comic book backing boards. This would be perfect for what I had in mind.
2) Trim The Board To Size: The news clipping would flop around inside the bag and possibly get damaged if I did not make the size more closely fit the document. I cut the backing board down to a size that was appropriate to the clipping.
3) Fit Clipping And Board In Bag: Carefully insert the news clipping and backing board into the corner of the bag. Try to keep the clipping centered on the backing board while doing this.
4) Fold Bag Around Back Of Board: Fold the bag around the back of the backing board, trying to keep the folds sharp; and the plastic in the front taut and uncreased.. At this point, you may find that you have a lot of excess bag in the back. Feel free to trim the excess plastic away.
5) Tape Bag Folds In Place: Once you have the folds in place where you need them and you have forced as much air out as possible, tape the bag so that the folds remain in place. This will help keep the document and the backing board from shifting.
Bonus Step - Transcribe and Save: You can take your preserved document and move the data into another form. Transcribe it into a file and save it. You may also want to print out a hard copy of the transcription and keep it with the artifact.
By using the materials that you find and creating your own step-by-step process, you will hopefully now find preservation of those old news articles less intimidating. Do what you can do now; time waits for no document.