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.
Start your engines–Preservation Week is the last week of April! Preservation is something that libraries have been doing since their invention but most people don’t realize what they could be doing at home to preserve their mementos, correspondence and digital life. Preservation Week is the time to raise awareness levels for libraries, museums and the general public. Libraries can use Preservation Week to connect our communities through events, activities, and resources that highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections. I’ve recently undertaken a couple activities at home by been putting all of my photos and negatives in acid and lignin-free containers and backing up my hard drive using a cloud service.
Get involved! You don’t need a lot of time or money – ALA has provided some excellent resources to get you started. You can find an Event Toolkit, Preservation Toolkit, Event Map, Speaker Locator and printable bookmarks. Here’s some suggestions for easy ways to promote Preservation Week from ALA :
- create a display about preserving and collecting personal, family, or community heritage
- offer a preservation workshop or event
- highlight Preservation Week on your website with a logo linked to ALA’s Preservation Week resources
- Tweet about Preservation Week #preswk.