In an earlier post, Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist, provided basic information about the safe handling of old paper. In an effort to thwart the enemies of paper, Sally has provided the following tips for storing your ephemera collectibles.
KEEP YOUR PAPER SAFE. Basements, attics, garages, and barns are terrible choices. You need at least the most rudimentary climate control if you want your treasures to survive long term. Simple steps to follow include:
- Heated in winter and cooled in summer. Not too damp or prone to leaks.
- Keep away from UV rays. Display only copies or ensure the glass or Plexiglas you use in frames has a UV protected coating on it.
- Keep away from dust. Boxes with lids or drawers.
Safe enclosures are acid and lignin free. They also do not have PVCs or plasticizers. Purchase archival supplies. Choose products that are labeled "PAT Passed," which means they will not react with photographs. (PAT stands for Photographic Activity Test and is an ISO Standard independent age acceleration test.)
Even though printed, paper ephemera is different from photographic prints, it's good to know that the clear sleeves you choose will not react chemically over time. So, go with the PAT passed products only.
The term "archival" is not a legal term and can be applied to any product whatsoever--even products that are known to cause damage such as sticky magnetic albums. More on this topic click here.
PAPER VS. PLASTIC. Sally prefers paper enclosures because they breathe. There's no risk of retaining moisture, and you can easily write on it with pencil (no ink to bleed through).
Clear sleeves are important protection for items that will be handled often. If you are selling your ephemera, you should invest in a high quality sleeves, and let your customers know it's safe to leave the item in that container long-term.
STORAGE SYSTEMS. Sally recommends archival boxes called "manuscript boxes" or "Hollinger boxes," which have metal edges. The metal edge makes them stronger; it also means you can construct the box without the use of adhesives. Some adhesives are caustic and can leach through to the contents of the box.
Archival manuscript boxes hold your paper items upright in folders. Be sure to purchase a stabilizer if your box is not going to be 100 percent full. You don't want the folders to slump down--that could cause permanent bending over time. Stabilizers fill the space until you have more folders to add.
Hanging folders are another possibility. A good choice for a very large collection. As long as you use high quality archival folders within the hanging folders (i.e., the ones that are in direct contact with your treasures), it's okay to get medium quality hanging folders.
Again, the most important point is to purchase high-quality acid- and lignin-free archival folders. Acids are a "slow fire" that will destroy paper slowly over time.
OVER-SIZED ITEMS. Sally suggest storing large items in archival boxes. Smallest items on top. Choose a drop-front box for easy removal and return. Purchase oversize folders to reduce handling.
Another choice for large items is to gently roll onto an archival core. You can then cover in an archival plastic sheet and tie with a string.
Check out Sally's blog for her in-depth discussions of all things archival.