Paper Collections: Documents, Art on Paper, Newspaper, Posters, Maps, etc.
- How do I preserve my paper collections (e.g., family documents, works of art on paper, posters, maps, etc.)?
- How do I preserve newspapers and other paper ephemera?
- Should I laminate my papers?
- Should I use gloves when handling valuable paper collections?
- How do I make a long-lasting scrapbook?
- What should I do if my paper collections have damage (e.g., soiling, tears, foxing, discoloration, tape, errant ink markings, etc.) and need conservation?
- How do I unroll paper (e.g., a poster) that has been rolled for a long time?
- Can I bring my paper collection item to the Library of Congress for conservation or examination?
- How can I enhance faded inscriptions/markings on paper?
- How can I find out how much my paper collection item is worth?
- Can I donate my paper collection item to the Library of Congress?
- How do I mat and frame my paper collection item?
- Is it safe to hang my framed paper collection item in a sunny room if I use UV-filtering acrylic or glass ("glazing")?
- Should I use glass or acrylic glazing in my frames?
- How do I clean frame glazing?
- What should I do if my papers get wet or moldy?
- Is it okay to use self-stick (pressure-sensitive) tape if it's "archival"?
- Should I put an ownership mark/stamp on my paper collections?
- What is permanent paper?
- What is permanent printing ink?
The most effective and economical preservation measures are preventive: good care, storage, and handling.
Besides good preventive measures, as suggested immediately above for all paper collections in general, reformatting may be an option to consider, as newspapers are printed on inexpensive paper that was not produced to last.
Do not laminate papers.
Alternatively, a sheet of paper can be encapsulated or sandwiched between clear sheets of polyester plastic (e.g., Mylar). Encapsulation [PDF: 461 KB / 4 pp.] implies closing or sealing all four edges of the sandwich and is particularly useful for fragile or frequently handled papers. Sealing the edge with an ultrasonic welder is preferable to sealing with heat or with polyester double-sided tape.
Because of the static charge associated with plastic, encapsulation is never recommended for paper with friable or loose media (e.g., charcoal, pencil, pastel). If one or two sides of the sandwich are left open to allow the paper to be removed when needed, the paper must be strong enough to withstand the static pull.
Contrary to widespread belief, gloves are not necessarily recommended to handle rare or valuable books or paper collection items.
Gloves (nitrile or vinyl) are always recommended if there is reason to suspect a health hazard (e.g., mold, arsenic-containing pigments). Gloves (nitrile, vinyl, or cotton) are also recommended when handling photograph albums/photographs or objects with metal or ivory parts.
Aside from those specific situations, it is generally preferable to handle your collection objects with clean hands, washed with soap and thoroughly dried, rather than with gloves. Why? See "Misperceptions About White Gloves ," pp. 4-16 from International Preservation News [PDF: 1.08 MB / 52 pp.]
Conservation work to address damage is time consuming and costly to do correctly.
If the item has collector's value, the damage is minor, and is infrequently handled, consider leaving it as-is and focusing on improving storage conditions.
If the item is of personal/sentimental value only, the damage is minor, and some risk of further damage from do-it-yourelf repair is acceptable, the Northeast Document Conservation Center has put together useful information for dry surface cleaning of paper and mending tears . Do not use self-stick tape, even if it is marketed as "archival."
If the item is of particular value, has progressing damage, is handled frequently, or is otherwise complicated, consider consulting a conservator.
If risk of damage from do-it-yourself is acceptable and the item generally is in good condition (e.g., not brittle, not breaking) and there are no sensitive inks or other media, the paper can be relaxed to permit unrolling by careful humidification. See How To Flatten Folded Or Rolled Paper Documents [PDF: 576 KB / 4 p.] (National Park Service) .
If risk of do-it-yourself damage is not acceptable or the item is not in good condition or has questionable inks or media, consult a conservator.
Congress stipulates that the Library preserve and maintain the collection of the Library of Congress only.
Two main options for obtaining conservation services are with a conservator in private practice or at a regional conservation center. The website of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) features information on How to Choose a Conservator and How to Find a Conservator by region, specialty, type of service, etc. The Regional Alliance for Preservation maintains a list of U.S. regional conservation centers by geographic area.
Once ink has faded (from natural aging, light exposure, or other environmental or internal factors), the mark cannot be restored to its previous intensity. This is why prevention, through proper storage and storage environment, is very important. Sometimes, faded inks can still be seen using parts of the electromagnetic spectrum outside the visible region (e.g., in infrared or ultraviolet ).
Imaging can be complicated and ultraviolet light is damaging to both paper materials, inks, and human tissues, including the eye. A conservator or regional conservation center can provide more information about a particular object after examination and can assist with imaging.
By stipulation of Congress, the Library of Congress cannot provide appraisal services.
The Smithsonian Institution has a helpful resource on gaining an identification, value, and offer for various kinds of objects.
The Library's Acquisitions office handles donations of books and other materials.
Sound quality matting and framing is very important. The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate has written Preservation Guidelines for Matting and Framing.
Note: Permanent or long-term display of paper-based materials is never recommended because of the permanent and irreversible damage caused by light. If the item is of personal, monetary, or historic value, consider matting and framing a facsimile and keeping the original in a good storage and storage environment.
Is it safe to hang my framed paper collection item in a sunny room if I use UV-filtering acrylic or glass ("glazing")?
Filtering out ultraviolet radiation removes the most damaging part of sunlight, but all light is damaging to paper, not just ultraviolet light.
Acrylic glazing is now available as "anti-static," which can be safely used to frame works with powdery media like pastels, charcoal, and graphite pencil. Acrylic glazing can filter out ultraviolet and is lighter, less brittle, and therefore safer to handle than glass. The downsides to acrylic is that it scratches more easily and is less rigid than glass and tends to bow in a frame when the acrylic sheet exceeds a certain size.
Dust with a lint-free soft cloth especially for cleaning glazing. If it is necessary to use a wet cleaning agent, use an appropriate agent for the glazing type (acrylic or glass) and apply the cleaning agent to the cleaning cloth; do not directly apply the agent to the glazing.
Take necessary safety precautions if the water is contaminated with sewage or other hazards or if there is active (wet or furry) mold growth.
To prevent mold growth, set out paper to dry immediately upon getting wet and control the ambient temperature and relative humidity.
If there is moist or furry mold visible, follow the instructions above for drying wet/damp books and, only when thoroughly dry, for removing mold.
If there are mold stains only, ensure ambient relative humidity stays between 40-65% to prevent regrowth; check items regularly.
Once applied, self-stick tape, also known as "pressure-sensitive" tape, can be extremely difficult to remove and often creates condition problems over time. If risk of further damage from do-it-yourelf repair is acceptable, the Northeast Document Conservation Center has put together useful information for mending tears . To avoid risk of damage from do-it-yourself repair, consult a conservator.
What is the objective for marking? As marking with ink does not protect against theft and graphite pencil is adequate for marking, marking with pencil is the practice of most special collections libraries today.
Some considerations for marking with pencil:
- Mark the verso, not the recto
- For cataloging purposes, it makes sense to try to put the mark in the same place on all items, preferably in a corner
- Place the item recto side down on a clean, dry, hard table; Do not pad the table -- the soft surface will result in the embossing of your pencil mark
- Choose a pencil with hardness near HB. Too hard and the pencil lead will scratch the paper surface; Too soft and the mark smudges too easily
Permanent paper is defined by the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) in ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (R1997), Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives , which specifies a 2% minimum alkaline reserve, less than 1% lignin, good tear resistance, and a pH range between 7.5 to 10.0.
The U.S. Federal Government uses permenent paper for federal records, books, and publications of enduring value.
Inkjet printers outfitted with pigment-based inks (as opposed to dye-based inks) and the appropriate matching paper as designated by the manufacturer can provide more stable and permanent images if the prints are stored in the dark, at room temperature, and at a relative humidity range between 30-50%. TheWilhelm Imaging Research, Inc. publishes permanence ratings for various brands of inkjet printers, with the associated pigment-based inks and matching papers.