Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree -
Preserving Old Documents and Records
Many patrons come into the
library asking what to do with old papers and records that they inherited
after the death of a parent or grandparent. Many of these materials were
passed down through several previous generations. If the original
documents were printed within the last 100 years, they are probably on
highly acidic paper. Oils from your hands can also contribute to the decay
of papers and documents.
The process of encapsulating each document will normally prevent the acid
or oil from spreading to other papers that come into contact with them.
Original photographs and documents should never be framed and placed where
sunlight can fade and destroy them. Make a color photograph or photocopy
of the document or picture to frame. Store the original in a protective
sleeve away from light, humidity, and any possible water damage. Documents
and photographs should never be stored where the temperature and humidity
Lamination was once the method of choice for preservation. Today,
encapsulation of items within acid-free sheet protectors has made the
preservation process more efficient. Most experts recommend preserving
your precious and valuable documents or photographs in this manner versus
the old method of lamination. Encapsulation allows the historical item to
float freely and can easily be removed when necessary. Lamination, on the
other hand, will damage photographs and documents, since the process
involves heating and melting a plastic coating over the item. This process
Encapsulation supplies can be obtained through most archival supply
companies. Two of the most popular with genealogists, historians, and
librarians are Gaylord and Light Impressions. You may locate these types
of companies on the Internet using the keyword search ?archival supplies?
or consult with the library staff at a local library or repository near
your residence. One of the best books on the subject of preservation is
the title Preserving Your Family Photographs by Maureen Taylor.
Many photographers are now active in the restoration and duplication of
family photographs, artifacts, and memorabilia. They create negatives of
the original so additional copies may be made and shared with others.
Distribution of copies of these items can maximize the possibility that
some copies of the original photographs will last for future generations.
It is also important to purchase a pen or marker that is safe for
photographs and label every picture. Note the names of people in the
photograph, the date or approximate date, and the occasion.
More than a few genealogists have talked about inheriting boxes of old
photographs with no identifiable information. Many people without any
genealogical interest end up tossing these items in the garbage or giving
them to flea markets and garage sales only to realize their mistake years
later when they become interested in genealogy.
Bryan L. Mulcahy email@example.com
Fort Myers-Lee County Library
2050 Central Avenue
Fort Myers, FL 33901-3917
Tel: (239)- 479-4651
Fax: (239)- 479-4634
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