Identify Makes it meaningful to younger family members and future generations Fully identify writers and recipients of letters (in pencil or a note) Photos: Write who, where, date, event Medals, other memorabilia: Write recipient, occasion, date Write down birth/death dates Write down parents’ and other family names Write down civilian/military service units, dates/places of service Any memorable experience
Organize: General Tips Goal: Prevent scattering or mis-identification All kinds of options – Depends on number, document type Keep all of each person’s letters and other papers together Keep one group of only letters Single chronological run of all materials Keep separate groups of each type of material Keep photos or other items received with letters together Keep filing system simple – clear categories Survey your archives fully before assigning categories of organizing
Organize: Old Family Letters If there’s an original order that makes sense, keep it that way. Order tells us a lot about the original owners If no order, best to organize correspondence by author first, then date Try not to combine/interfile an author’s letters or pages with another
Organize: Legal/Financial Records Depends on Number of Documents Organize by author or institution (large collection) Organize by year (small collection) Organize by record type (wills, birth certificates, etc.) Choose method that’s most straightforward Avoid organization by subject (one document=multiple subjects)
Organize: Bound Volumes Don't take things apart that are bound together (journals, scrapbooks) To note a particular page, use a slip of acid-free paper as a bookmark, or take a digital photo of that page.
PHOTOGRAPHS ARRANGEMENT Levels Vary: By Collection, Box, Folder, or Item Level
Collection Level Minimum level of information to describe the papers of a single person or organization. Keep as uncomplicated as possible Example: Bessie and Leon Sheff, 2 Photograph Albums and 3 Boxes of Loose Photographs, ca. 1880-1980. Note: Loose photos sticking together. Photo removal or conservation work necessary.
Box Level Examples of Descriptions 1 Box Post Cards, arranged alphabetically, ca 1940-1970 (1 cardfile box) Marcia Altman’s hat box with photos from her high school and college years (1917-1922).
Folder Level Makes finding a specific photo very simple. Examples: All the photos from your school years in a folder Photos of your graduation weekend might take up an entire envelope or folder. Put undated or unknown photo folders at end Box 1: Anne Lyons Jacobs Photographs Folder 1: Lyons Family Photos, 1880-1910 Folder 2: Unknown snapshots, ca. 1900-1920 Folder 3: Undated and Unknown snapshots
Item Level Good if more detailed description is required More “findable”
PRESERVING YOUR FAMILY RECORDS Suggestions about how best to preserve your family papers, photographs, audiovisual media, and books, recommended supplies you can purchase to preserve them, and useful tips to prolong the life of these precious mementoes.
Unbound Printed Materials Official Documents Letters Scrapbooks RUSSIAN PASSPORT, 1904 MY UNCLE ALEX’S WORLD WAR I DRAFT CARD
Storage and preservation tips Use “acid-neutral” or “lignin-free” file folders and archival-quality boxes. Store boxes flat or upright. Don’t overfill boxes! Cheaper: Use a file cabinet that has hanging racks/archival folders Store heavier items (e.g., books) separately. Size and shape of enclosure should closely match object(s) they hold. Good air circulation important. Avoid places with great fluctuations in temperature or near water sources. Avoid direct sunlight.
Handling Documents Remove and replace any damaging fasteners, but leave fasteners in place if removing them will cause damage. Best to unfold documents and manuscripts for storage. Photocopy any fragile or fading documents, and newsprint onto acid-free paper. Deacidify (Archival Mist, or Bookkeeper are environmentally- friendly deacidifying sprays)
Lamination generally not recommended; accelerates chemical aging of documents. Lamination uses harmful adhesives and heat that bonds the document to the plastic. Lamination not reversible; you can’t undo what you’ve done in case the technology changes or you decide to change storage locations. Use encapsulation or good archival quality containers to store your documents. Laminate or Encapsulate?
Scrapbook Considerations: Store scrapbooks in individual boxes, by size. Use duplicates of original photos in scrapbooks. Use acid-free, lignin-free paper. Use page protectors free of PVCs. Keep printed copies of your scrapbook layouts.
Photograph Preservation Tips - “Do’s” Each photo negative and print should have enclosure. Best stored flat in archival boxes. Use archival or “acid-neutral” paper envelopes. Handle on edge or use cotton gloves. Keep in best environment possible.
Photograph Preservation Tips - “Dont’s” - Don’t Use Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Unidentified plastics Materials with high acid content Glassine envelopes Wood pulp products Pressure-sensitive tape Rubber bands or paperclips Best stored flat in archival boxes. Use archival or “acid-neutral” paper envelopes. Handle on edge or use cotton gloves. Keep in best environment possible.
Audio Preservation Store vertically in archival boxes. Store in cool and dry conditions. Do NOT expose to direct sunlight. Store tapes away from magnetic fields and sources of vibration. Create two copies of each recording.
Video Preservation Handle by the edge Store flat, in archival containers. Don’t put paper or loose material in film storage box. Separate nitrate and acetate films. Can convert home movies to videotape, but not a preservation option now - good as “user copies.”
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS: Regularly back up files Make two backup copies Store backup files on CD-ROMs high-capacity zip disks, or portable flash drives. Save files in TIF format for preservation and copying; JPEG or GIF for viewing; PDF files for printing. Tip: Upgrade your equipment. Tip: Transfer files to new media periodically.
Book Care Books need good air circulation Books should be held upright on shelves. Books should not be shelved too tightly. Use good quality bookends Do not stack books in piles on shelves. Books should not extend beyond the edges of shelves
Storage Paper and cloth bindings should not be stored in direct contact with leather Books with fragile bindings or special value should be boxed for protection. Slipcases should be avoided because they often abrade the surface of the binding
Acid is Everywhere! Only use low-lignin, acid-free bookplates. All acidic inserts, such as bookmarks, scraps of paper, and pressed flowers, should be removed from books. Don’t use books to preserve that newspaper clipping! (Paper clips on book pages or on inserts into books should be removed, too. They rust!)
Mark Your Place, Not Your Books! When marking your place in a book, use a good quality bookmark. Do not use anything thick—such as a little notebook or a pencil—to mark your place. Do not dog-ear corners. Do not place the book face down or you risk cracking the spine or hinges.
Fixing Books Yourself DON’T use duct tape, Scotch tape, rubber bands, string, or store damaged books in “baggies.” DO use archival tapes, glues, rice paper and wheat paste, and the tools to use them correctly.
SAFEGUARDING YOUR FAMILY RECORDS: PLANNING AHEAD BEFORE THE HURRICANE SEASON AND SALVAGING THEM IF DISASTER HITS Papers, Books, Photos, AV, and other Media
SAFEGUARDING YOUR FAMILY RECORDS MAKING PREPARATIONS: FOOD, WATER, EQUIPMENT, NECESSITIES VITAL RECORDS TO TAKE IMPORTANT FAMILY RECORDS RECOVERY: PAPERS BOOKS AND MAGAZINES PHOTOGRAPHIC MATERIALS DISKS RECORDINGS
HOME DISASTER PREPAREDNESS PLAN: PROTECTION OF YOUR OWN LIFE IS PRIMARY! MEET AS A FAMILY TO DEVELOP A PLAN AND DO A “DRY RUN” MAKE LIST OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ITEMS TO TAKE WITH YOU. Medications and First Aid Food and Water Clothing and Toiletries Pets Legal and Financial Records Cash Extra set of car keys Personal Address Book, Phone/Yellow Pages Directory Cellular Phone and Charger Radio and Batteries Computer CPU – peripherals replaceable
Papers Make Photocopies.. Use large capacity storage boxes. Seal with duct tape and storage tape. Use archival page protectors (polyester, polypropylene, or polyethylene, not PVC) If odd-sized, use a single box or archival shoe box with acid-free buffered separating sheets. Store away from windows, fireplaces and water pipes and from attics, basements and garages.
Books Store away from windows, fireplaces and water pipes and from attics, basements and garages. If books are in fragile condition, purchase book boxes.
ITEMS TO HAVE ON HAND FOR CLEANUP Plastic tub Clean water Rubber gloves Rubber boots Large plastic storage bags Can create your own home disaster response kit from Protext: http://www.protext.net/products/Products.html
RECOVERY: WET PAPERS Try to reduce temperature and humidity Circulate air Interleave sheets of paper towels Freeze all items that cannot be dried
RECOVERY: WET BOOKS AND MAGAZINES Act within 48 hours. Do not use bleaches, detergents, fungicides, disinfectants, staples or paper clips on wet paper. Allow air to circulate. Handle carefully. Keep book covers on glossy paper apart Interleave sheets of white paper towel between pages. Keep wet magazines closed tight and freeze dry. If some mold or mildew on surface, dry ASAP and use face mask with a carbon filter. Outside, remove surface mold with a very soft, clean brush If can’t be dried right away, freeze them in a freezer bag, with a piece of wax paper between each book.
Additional Book Recovery Examples Interleave Coated Pages With Paper Towels ASAP Use Fan for Air Circulation Can Stack Nearly Dry Books Under Weights
RECOVERY: PHOTOS, NEGATIVES, FILMS DO NOT: Stack wet photos; touch the surface of the wet photo or let anything touch their surfaces. Use fans to circulate the air, dry items within 48 hours, and freeze all items that cannot be dried. Save color photos first, followed by black and white prints, slides, negatives. Dry them out, or freeze them within 48 hours Rinse off any dirt or mud, put them into ziplock freezer bags, and freeze within 48 hours. Photos on plastic coated paper can also be hung to dry. For film, get help from a photo lab after they’ve been immersed in cold, clean water. After washing and drying, can be placed in a sandwich bag or other archival material. Immerse motion pictures in cold water, but have them rewashed by an experienced film processing lab within 48 hours. For microfilm, put film into basin filled with cold (distilled) water.
Recovery: Scrapbooks Don’t move them until you’ve found a place has been prepared for them. Support large scrapbooks with boards. Air dry if small group and are either damp or water damaged around edges. Keep air moving constantly with fans. Use dehumidifiers to reduce relative humidity to around 50%. Interleave pages with uninked newsprint or blotter, and place books on tables. If scrapbook isn’t boxed and binding is loose, wrap in freezer paper, and freeze as quickly as possible.
RECOVERY: FLOPPY DISKS AND CDS Water-damaged diskettes should be dried out quickly and evenly, or kept wet until they can be dried properly. Dry damp diskettes with a blow dryer on low heat setting. If there’s too many, keep them immersed in clean cold water in clean containers, and change the water daily.
Recovering CDs or Records: Do not dry in direct sunlight or use hair dryer – will cause warping. Wash in clean water and air dry. Reproduction recommended if you have important data or family photos stored.
Recovery: Reel to Reel Audiotapes Do not unwind tapes or remove from reel. Air dry within 48 hours. Use fans to keep air moving. Pack vertically into plastic crates or cardboard cartons. Since most contamination on outer layers of tape, wash exposed edges with distilled water. Air dry by supporting reels vertically or by laying reels on sheets of clean blotter. Use portable dehumidifiers to to slowly remove moisture from tape, and bring down relative humidity to about 50%. Once dry, assess tape for further cleaning and duplication; consult conservator if needed.
Recovering Videotapes If damp, try to blow dry them, or –Find a video duplicating and transfer service. –Ask a film lab that works with movie film to see if they can chemically dry and clean the tape.
Some Useful Resources American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works http://aic.stanford.edu/library/online/brochures/index.html Heritage Preservation Task Force: “Tips for Salvaging Water-Damaged Valuables.” http://www.heritagepreservation.org/PROGRAMS/tftips.htm NEDCC Resources for Private and Family Collections http://nedcc.org/resources/family.php Conservation OnLine – has a section on disaster planning and recovery http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/ Library of Congress: Preserving Family Treasures http://www.loc.gov/preservation/family/
If Help Is Needed I am also available to discuss, plan, and implement projects to organize, preserve, and make your family or organizational records available. Burt Altman firstname.lastname@example.org (850) 212-7050