Many of the most popular documents in a town’s past are its photographs. These photographs may have been given to the library because it is where all of the historical documents are stored or they may have been donated by a patron of the library. For whatever reason, rural libraries tend to have a large amount of photographs that document their town’s history. Archiving photographs can be as simple as putting them in acid & lignin free folders and boxes or Mylar sleeves and then storing them in a dark room. But for those who would like to display their collection of photographs they have a few options.
If creating a display with photographs from the archive do not display them in direct sunlight. The UV rays are what make documents and pictures fade over time. I would also suggest keeping them in a clear envelope of some type. Two common types are Mylar and Polyester envelopes. For the library that would like to allow their patrons to look through their photographs without having worry about them wearing gloves and damaging the photo, I would suggest scrapbooking them into albums. Though this may sound silly it is actually a very effective and efficient way to organize and display photographs. The majority of scrapbooks and their pages are acid & lignin free and the adhesives for them are also acid & lignin free. This is important because acid in tape is what turns the tape yellow in time and would therefore further damage the photographs. If the sound of sticking an old photograph to a page is slightly abhorrent I would suggest using photograph corners. With those the photo is never stuck in the scrapbook.
In a scrapbook you can also transcribe any writings that happen to be on the back of the photograph. This will make it easier for patrons to learn about the item and the transcription will prevent any future need to see the back of the photograph if it is placed directly on the page. Each page of the scrapbook should also have a Mylar sleeve. This will protect the photographs from being touched when a patron is looking at them as well as preventing dust and other damage. Scrapbooking can be a fun and innovative way to preserve a town’s photographs and display the history of the town at the same time.
Additionally, for those of you that feel like scrapbooking will be a lot of extra work but like the idea of allowing the patrons to just look through the photographs I would suggest putting them in an album. You can purchase photograph sleeves to the size of the pictures in your collection and then put them in a nice 3-ring binder. I would suggest not using a binder from Wal-Mart or Target because they are not archivally safe.
Some places to purchase archival scrapbooking supplies:
- Gaylord Archival Supplies:
- They might be one of the pricer options but you know for sure everything they sell is archival quality.
- Scrapbook: Selection of Scrapbooks
- Page adhesive squares: Photo Corners
- Hobby Lobby:
- As a general craft and hobby store this one will have scrapbooks and pages but it will also have albums that will come with photograph pages.
- Scrapbook Supply Page
- Page adhesives: Clear Photo Corners
- Like Hobby Lobby, Micheals is a general craft and hobby story that will cater to scrapbook needs.
- Scrapbook Supply Page
- Page adhesive squares: Clear Photo Corners
- Hollinger Metal Edge:
- Like Gaylord, this is a pricer option but it comes with the assurance that everything you purchase will be archivally safe for your photographs
- Scrapbook Supply Page: Scrapbook Option
- Page adhesives: Photo Corners
Note: Page protectors vary depending on the scrapbook decided on. Many of the refill pages will come with page protectors so check that when ordering.
Does your town have a newspaper? Did it have one once? If the town or surrounding towns have or had a newspaper the library probably has every copy ever printed. Chances are that many patrons will come in and ask for the back issues of these newspapers. Therefore, storage for these materials can become difficult. When faced with storing newspapers it is very common to see them stored in stacks that can easily be searched when requested by a patron. Keeping these papers usable for the public is the challenge that many librarians and archivists face.
The easiest way to preserve newspapers is by purchasing large acid & lignin free newspaper folders. These folders are generally labeled as oversized folders that can be purchased to the sized of the newspaper. I would suggest purchasing a folder that is slightly larger than the newspaper so the item is fully covered. This will keep it completely out of damaging light and dust. The most common practice is to have one newspaper per folder so that each item stays as pristine as possible. These folders can then be put into an oversized box that can easily be looked through in order to find the item when requested. If the newspaper is particularly fragile it is suggested that it does not circulate among patrons. A fragile item will be fine in one of the folders but for extra protection I would suggest using a Mylar or Polyester sleeve. These sleeves will encase the entire newspaper in a type of plastic wrapping that will prevent moisture and air movement through the item. I suggest this for those newspapers that are starting to disintegrate from age and use. Though it will not stop the disintegration process entirely it will slow it down enough to ensure its usefulness for the future.
Depending on where the items are purchased the cost will fluctuate. The two most common archival suppliers are Gaylord Archival Supplies and Hollinger Metal Edge. The item depends on the best place to shop. The items within these two companies are comparable in quality so when ordering it is important to have a general idea of how many items are needed. When ordering take notice of the package sizes (package of 10, 25, 50, etc.) and of the minimum order amount. Because these folders and boxes are oversized they may not be available at a general office supply store like Staples.
Where to start with your newspaper archive:
- Gaylord Archival Supplies has a starter kit available for those archiving newspapers for the first time. It is available for order at this link.
- Hollinger Metal Edge also sells a newspaper kit. The page comes with the option to purchase more folders of the size that are in the kit right away. It is available at this link.
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 reliable 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:
- Gaylord Archival Supplies
- This company caters to smaller institutions by allowing a smaller amount of items to be ordered at one time.
- Suggested box: Classic Storage Box
- Suggested folders: Letter Size File Folders
- Hollinger Metal Edge:
- This company tends to cater to larger institutions by requiring a minimum amount of items to be ordered on selected items.
- Suggested box: Standard Record Storage Boxes
- Suggested folders: Letter Size Tabbed File Folders
- As a general office supply store their items will be the cheapest option however they may not be acid & lignin free.
- Suggested box: Letter/Legal Size Storage Boxes
- 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.