How do you rescue and recover memories from mold using conservation techniques? This would include transferring health records from one generation to the next as well as memorabilia, photos, old tape recordings, and transcribing what’s on discs to paper. When it comes to documents and photos, you transport horizontally and store vertically.
Store documents and photos in plastic holders, between sheets of waxed paper, or interleave with acid-free paper. Books are stored spine down. Archive DVDs and CDs in plastic holders and store in plastic crates. To conserve time capsules, according to the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), in Washington, DC, neutralize that acid-wracked paper.
Use acid-free paper around photos. To store paper that has a high acid content, put the papers in folders and storage boxes with an alkaline reserve to prevent acid migration. Interleave your papers with sheets of alkaline-buffered paper. The buffered paper protects your item from acids that move from areas of high to areas of low concentration. Buffers neutralize acids in paper. A buffer is an alkaline chemical such as calcium carbonate. So you have the choice to use the buffered or non-buffered paper depending on whether your photos are stored against other acid-free materials or printed on acid-free paper.
Interweave photos with waxed paper or polyester web covered blotters. Store photos away from overhead water pipes in a cool, dry area with stable humidity and temperatures, not in attics or basements. Keep photos out of direct sunlight and fluorescent lights when on display. Color slides have their own storage requirements.
Keep photos from touching rubber bands, cellophane tape, rubber cement, or paper clips. Poor quality photo paper and paper used in most envelopes and album sleeves also cause photos to deteriorate. Instead, store photos in chemically stable plastic made of polyester, polypropylene, triacetate, or polyethylene. Don’t use PCV or vinyl sleeves. Plastic enclosures preserve photos best and keep out the fingerprints and scratches.
Albumen prints are interleaved between groups of photographs. Matte and glossy collodion prints should not be touched by bare hands. Store the same as albumen prints—interleaved between groups of photos.
Silver gelatin printing and developing photo papers are packed in plastic bags inside plastic boxes. Carbon prints and Woodbury prints are packed horizontally. Photomechanical prints are interleaved every two inches and packed in boxes. Transport color photos horizontally–face up.
Chromogenic prints and negatives are packed in plastic bags inside boxes. If you’re dealing with cased photos, pack the ambrotypes and pannotypes horizontally in padded containers. Cover the glass of Daguerreotype photos and pack horizontally in padded containers.
Pollutants from the air trapped inside holders and folders destroy photos and paper. Use buffered enclosures for black and white prints and negatives. Use non-buffered paper enclosures to store color prints and color print negatives or cyanotypes and albumen prints.
Store your tintypes horizontally. If you have collodion glass plate negatives, use supports for the glass and binders, and pack horizontally in padded containers. The surface texture of photos stored in plastic can deteriorate. It’s called ferrotyping. So don’t store negatives in plastic. If you store your photos in paper enclosures, be aware that paper is porous. Instead of plastic or paper storage, put photos in glass plate negative sleeves in acid-free non-buffered enclosures.
Then store vertically between pieces of foam board. Where do you find glass plate negative sleeves that can be stored in acid-free non-buffered enclosures? Buy storage materials from companies catering to conservationists, such as Light Impressions ®. They’re the leading resource for archival supplies. Also look in local craft stores.
Talk to your state archives conservation specialist. Some documents require the work of a trained conservationist. Before you sterilize mold away with bleach, ask your state archives conservationist whether the bleach will ruin your diary or heirloom.
Don’t make or buy photo albums with “peel-back” plastic over sticky cardboard pieces because they are chemically unstable and could damage anything stored there. Instead, use photo-packet pages made from chemically stable plastic made of polyester, polypropylene, triacetate, or polyethylene.
An excellent album would contain archival-quality pages using polyester mounting corners. Acid-free paper mounting corners are next best.
Vellum or Parchment Documents
Interleave between folders, and pack oversize materials flat. If you have prints and drawings made from chemically stable media, then interleave between folders and pack in cartons. Oversize prints and drawings should be packed in bread trays, or map drawers, placed on poly-covered plywood. Be careful the mildew from plywood doesn’t paste onto the back of your print. Look at the poly-covering on the wood.
Take off the frames of your drawings or prints if you can. Books with leather and vellum bindings need to be packed spine down in crates one layer deep. Books and pamphlets should be separated with freezer paper and always packed spine down in crates one layer deep.
Bread trays work well to store parchment and vellum manuscripts that are interleaved between folders. Anything oversize gets packed flat. Posters need to be packed in containers lined with garbage bags because they are coated papers. Watercolors and hand-colored prints or inks should be interleaved between folders and packed in crates. Paintings need to be stored face up without touching the paint layer. Carry them horizontally.
Computer Tapes and DVD or CD Discs, Audio and Video Tapes
Store those ‘dinosaur’ computer tapes in plastic bags packed vertically with plenty of room. Store those historic computer tapes in plastic crates. Keep tapes away from light, heat, or cold. Never touch the magnetic media. If you have an open reel tape, pick up by the hub or reel. Floppy disks should be packed vertically in plastic bags and stored in plastic crates.
With DVDs and CDs, pack vertically in plastic crates and store in plastic drawers or cardboard cartons. Careful—don’t touch or scratch the recordable surface. Handle the CD or DVD by the edge. Place audio and video tapes vertically in plastic holders and store them in plastic crates.
Discs made of shellac or acetate and vinyl disks are held by their edges and packed vertically in ethafoam-padded crates. Make sure nothing heavy is placed on CDs, DVDs, tapes, or other disks. You can find ethafoam in most craft stores, or order from a company specializing in storage and presentation tools such as Light Impressions.®
Diaries, Bibles, and Old Family Cookbooks
Here’s how to “mend conditions” and restore diaries. First make a book jacket for a diary. Put a title and label on the dust jacket with the name of the diary’s author and any dates, city, state, or country.
Use acid-free paper for the jacket. Diaries and book jackets are works of art. If torn, mend the diary. Apply a protective plastic wrapper to your valuable dust jacket or give diaries dust jackets in good condition.
Be cautious using bleach, because chlorine fumes will fade the ink and soak through the opposite page to fade that writing. After testing the bleach, if the diary is dingy and dirty, bleach it white on the edges only using diluted bleach that won’t fade old ink. Test the bleach first on similar surfaces, such as a blank page in the book.
Repair old diaries, and turn them into heirlooms for families and valuable collectibles. The current price for repairing handwritten diaries and books is about $50 and up per book or bound diary. Better yet, publish diaries as print-on-demand PDF files and print them out as paperback books with covers for families.
Some diaries served as handwritten cookbooks containing recipes created by a particular family cook. For more repair tips on bound diaries-as-cook-books, I recommend the book titled, How to Wrap a Book, Fannie Merit Farmer, Boston Cooking School.
How do you repair an old diary or family recipe book to make it more valuable to heirs? You’ll often find a bound diary that’s torn in the seams. According to Barbara Gelink, of the Collector’s Old Cookbooks Club, San Diego, to repair a book, you take a bottle of Book Saver Glue (or any other book-repairing or wood glue), and spread the glue along the binder.
Run the glue along the seam and edges. Use wax paper to keep the glue from getting where it shouldn’t. Put a heavy glass bottle on the inside page to hold it down while the glue dries.
Use either the finest grade sand paper or nail polish remover to un-glue tape, tags, or stains from a glossy cover. Sit away from heat, light, and sparks. Carefully dampen a terry cloth with nail polish remover, lighter, or cleaning fluid and circle gently until the tag and stain are gone. On a plastic book cover, use the finest grade of sandpaper.
Memorabilia such as diaries, genealogy materials, books, photos, ivory, sports trophies, cards, discarded library and school books, or fabrics that end up at estate sales or thrift shops may have adhesive price tags.
To bleach the “discarded book stamp” that libraries and schools often use, or any other rubber stamp mark, price, date, or seals on the pages or edges, use regular bleach, like Clorox. It turns the rubber stamp mark white. The household bleach also turns the edges and pages of the book white as new.
To preserve a valuable, tattered dust jacket with tears along the edges, provide extra firmness. Put a protective plastic wrapper on top of the book jacket cover of a diary, especially if it’s handwritten.
To collect diaries or family photos, look in garage sales, flea markets, and antique shops. Attend auctions and book fairs. Two recommended auction houses for rare cookbooks include Pacific Book Auction Galleries or Sotheby’s. Pacific Book Auction Galleries sometimes puts cookbook collections up for an auction.
Look for old high-school graduation class year books to collect from various high schools or middle schools found in garage and estate sales. Restore them and find out whether there’s an alumni association whose members want that book stored where all can access it, such as in a public or school library offering interstate library loans.
Can the diary, recipe book, or school yearbook be restored and digitized on DVDs with permission from those who copyrighted it? If you’re into keepsake album making with family history photos, diaries, or recipes, look for cookbooks printed by high school parent-teacher associations. Some old ones may be valuable, but even the one put out by the depression era San Diego High School Parent Teacher Association for the class of 1933-34 is only worth $10.
You can start a family history business specializing in restoring diaries, domestic history journals, school yearbooks, and certain types of personal, rare, or cook books. For example, Cornucopia has old and rare books emphasizing cooking, food literature, domestic history, household management, herbs, kitchen gardens, hotels, restaurants, etiquette, manners, pastimes, amusements, and needlework. They search for out-of-print books, and are interested in material from the 19th century through 1940. Write to: Little Treasures.
You could start a collector’s old diaries and photos club. Marge Rice is a pioneer genealogist who created a hobby of returning heirloom photos to their families of origin. See the related article at the ancestry.com library site. Or digitize photos for the web. See the instructional site on digitizing photos for the web at First Monday.
Some bound handwritten diaries were purchased as blank or lined notebooks. People who collect autographs may also be interested in diaries of authors. For example, the published diary novel titled One Day Some Schlemiel Will Marry Me is a diary that ended up as a published first person life story novel. Other diaries end up as cookbooks.
Are diaries worth as much as rare cookbooks? How much are the thousands of rare cookbooks worth today? A helpful guide is the Price Guide to Cookbooks & Recipe Leaflets, 1990, by Linda J. Dickinson, published by Collector Books.
See Bibliography of American Cookery Books, 1742-1860. It’s based on Waldo Lincoln’s American Cookery Books 1742-1860, by Eleanor Lowenstein. Over 800 books and pamphlets are listed. Order from Oak Knoll Books & Press.
Louis & Clark Booksellers specialize in rare and out-of-print cookery, gastronomy, wine and beverages, baking, restaurants, domestic history, etiquette, and travel books. Cook books are much more in demand than diaries, unless the author has celebrity status.
Make copies of diaries. Work with the photocopies when you decipher the writing. Store your old diaries in a dry, cool place. Lining the storage place with plastic that’s sealed will keep out vermin, moisture, and bugs. Without moisture, you can keep out the mildew and mold. Store duplicates away from originals.
Was something placed in a diary on a certain page, such as a dried rose, letter, farmer’s wheat stain, or a special book mark? What meaning did it have? Look for clues for a time frame. Date the diary. List the date it was begun and when it was ended if you can. List the geographic location of the events in the diary and the writer’s travels.
Of what kind of materials is the diary made?
Is it improvised, created at low cost by the author? Or is it fancy and belonging to someone of wealth? What is the layout like? Does it show the education of the writer or anything personal? Was it a farmer’s almanac, captain’s log or sailor’s calendar, personal journal or if recent, a Web log (blog)?
What was the writing tool, a quill or a pencil? What’s the handwriting like? What century or years? Is it full of details, maps, corsages, and pictures? What is its central message? Do you see patterns or mainly listed facts?
Transcribe the diary with your computer. Read it into a camcorder or on audio tape. It’s now oral history. What historical events influenced the writing of the diary? What’s the social history? What language is it in or dialect? Are there vital records such as wills or deeds to real estate mentioned in the diary? You’ve now mended, restored, and conserved a life story and a pattern on the quilt of humanity. Remember flash drives can go bad as do hard disc drives stored for a long time. Transcribe to acid-free paper so the records can be read when the technology changes.
American Institute for Conservation
Light Impressions (Archival Supplies)
WAAC Newsletter, Vol. 19, No 2 (May, 1997) articles and charts online by Betty Walsh, Conservator, BC Archives, Canada and the Walsh’s information at: . The site contains material from the WAAC Newsletter, Volume 10, Number 2, May 1988, pp.2-5.
Curatorial Care of Works of Art on Paper, New York: Intermuseum Conservation Association, 1987.
Library Materials Preservation Manual: Practical Methods for Preserving Books, Pamphlets, and Other Printed Materials, Heidi Kyle. 1984
Archives & Manuscripts: Conservation – A Manual on Physical Care and Management, Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler, Society of American Archivists: Chicago, 1993.