As you move through life, there are many artifacts that you might want to keep. Items like medical files, ancestry documents, deeds, newspaper clippings, wills and testaments, and family scrapbooks are just some of the important documents you might collect throughout your days.
However, protecting these documents takes considerable effort and planning. Luckily, with a few preventative steps, you can ensure the preservation of your documents for years to come. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Light and Sun Exposure Are Deadly
Sunlight damages paper in more ways than one. Why is this? It’s due in part to the UV rays, which spur chemical reactions that eventually deteriorate ink, fade colorants and damage the actual paper fibers and polymers.
Make sure to keep your documents in a dark area to prevent light damage from occurring.
2. Watch out for Humidity
Paper has the ability to absorb moisture. Depending on the structural makeup of the specific paper, it can absorb too much of these water molecules and alter its structural makeup.
What does all of that mean?
If the room you store paper in is too humid, it will change the property of the paper, which can warp it and distort the ink.
To protect your documents, the Northeast Document Conservation Center advises storing documents in rooms with humidity levels lower than 55%. How can you tell what the humidity level is in your home? For the most accurate results, purchase a hygrometer.
3. Beware of Pests
Pests, mainly mice, can make their way into your papers, using them for nests and leaving droppings, destroying your documents’ integrity. To prevent pests from calling your documents home, keep the area clean by sweeping and vacuuming often. Make sure to seal any cracks or holes where mice may be able to enter.
4. Get the Right Storage Enclosures
Once you have chosen the room where you want to store your documents, the next step to consider is what type of document enclosure you will use. Storage enclosures are vital as they provide an extra element of support to your documents.
There are two types of storage enclosures:
While plastic may seem like the best type of enclosure as it can ward off moisture and water, some materials aren’t compatible with plastic.
If you choose plastic, you’ll want to make sure that you find a plastic material that passes the photographic activity test. Otherwise, interactions with some plastics can spur chemical reactions, which can negatively affect the structure of your documents.
There are other considerations you should be aware of when choosing your storage. When you’re considering what storage enclosure to use, make sure not to use:
- Paper clips or paper fasteners
- Picture frames (instead, remove the image and store it separately)
- Any enclosure that forces you to roll up or fold a document
It’s important to note that storage enclosures shouldn’t be used as your only form of protection. Instead, storage enclosures offer a last line of defense to keep your documents extra safe.
5. Consider Your Home
In general, it’s a good idea not to store your documents in the attic or the basement, as these rooms are prone to fluctuating humidity and extreme temperatures.
When it comes to your home, you know it best. Look for rooms that present the most moderate, controlled temperatures. If you have a basement that often floods, placing your documents there (even if they’re in a water-proof casing) isn’t the best idea.
6. Remember Restoration Services
As hard as we plan, sometimes things still go awry. Many homeowners lose their documents during floods or fires, and these people feel lost when this happens.
Luckily, there are companies out there that specialize in document restoration services. By using document restoration services, your documents can often be restored even when affected by mold, smoke, water, or other damages, making everything seem like the damage never happened.
Keeping Your Precious Papers Safe
While documentation preservation can seem like a daunting task, as long as you are aware of these six considerations, preserving your artifacts and documents will be a lot easier. Keep your documents in a dark, cool, dry area, and make sure to reach out to a restoration service if need be.