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Basic conservation

Some dos and don'ts for the basic preservation of archives

After some minor repairs this scrapbook will be packaged in preservation materials of archive quality.Don't

  • use self-adhesive photograph albums. Traditional photograph corners or polyester pocket albums are recommended
  • use newspaper to wrap documents or to line shelves and boxes as it can become highly acidic
  • use ordinary envelopes, files, folders, tissue paper, or corrugated card. These are often of poor and unknown quality
  • use wooden boxes. The oils and adhesives in these can be acidic
  • use photographic paper or print boxes, cardboard boxes, shoeboxes etc.
    Don't use polythene or plastic bags, PVC, plastic envelopes and files. These all contain plasticizers and chlorine, which release harmful chemicals as they degrade
  • use frames that have poor quality mount board or are backed with wood
  • never under any circumstance use any form of pressure sensitive tape, even so-called safe tape on archival material


  • keep newspaper cuttings separate from all other material. Ideally they should be stored in separate acid free envelopes
  • always remove any rusty paper clips or staples from collections
  • store documents and photos flat, this will help prevent distortion
  • consider rolling large items around the outside of an archival quality tube
  • store items individually in acid free envelopes or folders
  • use sleeves made from archival grade polyester. Polyester is ideal for single unfolded sheets as the item can be viewed without removal from the protective sleeve
  • store books in acid free boxes or wrap them in acid free dust jackets to prevent further damage
  • use acid free tissue paper to interleave between pages of volumes with colour plates to prevent off-setting or blocking
  • protect prints and drawings in their frames by placing a sheet of UV filter material over the face of the glass (not the drawing). Filter sleeves can also be placed over lamps/lights used to illuminate objects
  • keep prints, drawings and water colours in individual acid free folders, and store them flat in a box

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