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Preservation at Home: Preservation Basics

Things to consider

When considering preservation, you need to know what affects paper documents, photographs, and bound books.

  • Light
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Handling
  • Storage

Keep your items out of sunlight because UV rays are harmful and will discolor or diminish the color of pages and ink.

Do not store items in high temperature places, such as attics, garages, or storage units (unless climate controlled).

Areas without humidity control (same as places with high temperature exposure) are breeding grounds for mold on paper and leather items.

If you need to handle fragile or historic items, such as old letters, photos, or diaries, be sure to handle gently and with clean, dry hands. The more you touch an item, the more natural oil from your skin will transfer.

Storage basics for paper and photographs is to always use acid-free, archival quality storage items. For books, you also want acid and lignin-free.


Before you start preserving items, you want to assess the material.

How many items will you be preserving? Are they all of the same material and from the same time period?

If there are metal paperclips or staples, you should remove them carefully, and any other metal as you go through your items. Over time, metal will rust onto the paper or photo.

If any pages are folded, unfold them as carefully as possible to lay them flat. This may create a tear if the item has been folded for decades; we can repair it later.

If any of your items contain cultural importance, you may want to consult a conservator. The Archivist at the Victoria Regional History Center can connect you to a few.

The VRHC is always looking to add to the local history collection. If you want to bring anything for donation or for the center to scan or copy and add to the collection, please reach out to Brittany Rodriguez.