So you’ve inherited family heirlooms. Now what? This post covers the most cost effective supplies to preserve your treasures and the best places in your home to store them. Next week’s post discusses specifics for books, photos, textiles, jewelry and plastics.
If you just want the quick version, remember two things:
- Archival supplies will preserve your treasures. Regular office supplies will destroy them (I’m looking at you, cellophane tape, rubber bands and paperclips).
- Your heirlooms are most comfortable at room temperature.
Want the scenic route version? Buckle up, let’s go!If you have a lot of items, it first helps to make an inventory list for your own reference and for insurance purposes if the family treasures are valuable.
Next, gather some basic preservation supplies. Generally, I recommend buying it online through Gaylord Archival, University Products, and Dick Blick for the most reliable products at the best prices. Container Store also carries archival boxes in store. They’re pricey but fine if you only need one or two.
*You don’t need much to get started:
- Sakura Pigma archival pen (most office supplies stores carry them)
- Unbuffered archival tissue
- Unbuffered archival boxes/ acid free archival folders
- Clear polyethylene or polyester photo sleeves (even clear office sheet protectors work as long as they are PVC free, latex free, and acid free)You might be thinking you can do it cheaper by using a Sharpie, regular boxes, gift tissue and photo scrapbooks. You can do that, but I guarantee you’ll regret it. They are not suitable for long term storage because they give off acidic vapors that accelerate the normal aging process and cause irreversible discoloration and damage.
Now, archival tissue and boxes come in two types: buffered and unbuffered. Buffered materials have calcium carbonate impregnated within the material to buffer against and counteract migrant acids. These are suitable for plant material items like cotton, flax, linen and jute. Unbuffered materials are best used for storing animal proteins like leather, wool, silk, and pearl.
If you have an item with mixed fibers or you’re not sure which to use, when in doubt, always go with an unbuffered option. Not only is it slightly less expensive, it is more versatile. I use unbuffered boxes and paper for the Museum’s collection.
Storage: try not to store anything you really love in the garage, basement or attic. These areas are often prone to wide temperature, humidity fluctuations, flooding and pests. The best storage places are closets on interior walls in your home. Check on your treasures in storage and air them out from time to time, replacing any discolored archival supplies.
Stay tuned for Collections 102, part 2: how do I store… vintage plastic and textiles
Collections 102, part 4: emergency preparedness. This will outline how to preserve your family treasures after a flood or fire and other tips to fix common types of damage.
* Oh, by the way, this is not a sponsored post. No one paid me to recommend products or vendors (although that would be nice). These are just ones I like using to maintain the Museum’s collection.