Archiving in Rural Libraries: The Basics

Libraries in small towns around the country are running into the problem of being the only historical repository for their town. Sure they could send their materials to the State Archives or Historical Society but then they would lose all those materials that made their town so unique. Archiving these items does not have to be time-consuming, crazy expensive, or difficult. All it takes is a little direction and knowledge on where to purchase the preservation items.

The most basic way to preserve different documents, photographs, or small books is to put them in acid & lignin free folders and boxes that will protect them from damaging light, dirt, and bugs. If there just is not time to organize all of the items, put them in the folders and boxes as they are to prevent further damage to them until there is time to archive them.

For those that have a bit more time the documents can be organized chronologically or by subject. It depends on what you, as the archivist, think would be a reliableĀ narration of the town’s history. If the documents show the history of the town as a whole, I would suggest chronological organization so that they tell the full story. But if there are several collections of items that all discuss the same event then organizing them by subject may be more pertinent to the story you want to tell. There is no wrong way to organize these items so have fun with looking over them and learning more about your town and library.

Places to purchase the folders and boxes:

  1. Gaylord Archival Supplies
    1. This company caters to smaller institutions by allowing a smaller amount of items to be ordered at one time.
    2. Suggested box: Classic Storage Box
    3. Suggested folders: Letter Size File Folders
  2. Hollinger Metal Edge:
    1. This company tends to cater to larger institutions by requiring a minimum amount of items to be ordered on selected items.
    2. Suggested box: Standard Record Storage Boxes
    3. Suggested folders: Letter Size Tabbed File Folders
  3. Staples:
    1. As a general office supply store their items will be the cheapest option however they may not be acid & lignin free.
    2. Suggested box: Letter/Legal Size Storage Boxes
    3. Suggested folders: Three Tab File Folders

 

Note: The reason for acid & lignin free materials is so that the folders and boxes do not react with the natural acid in the documents or photographs during their years in storage. This reaction is what causes the discoloration (yellowing) in items overtime.

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