Archives Month 2012
October is Archives Month, and to celebrate, the Virginia Historical Society’s archivists have put together their top ten tips for preserving your documents for the future. We also have suggestions for learning about how to donate your family or personal papers to a repository like the VHS.
Archivist’s Top Ten List of Dos and Don’ts
1. Do keep papers and photographs in a dry, climate-controlled environment.
Do not keep cherished family documents in attics, basements, or barns.
2. Do use vinyl-coated paper clips to hold multi-page documents together.
Do not use fasteners—such as rubber bands, metal paper clips, or staples—to secure important papers.
3. Do label and date photographs with light pencil marks or with written labels on photo sleeves whenever possible.
Do not allow photographs to pile up without documentation.
4. Do avoid applying adhesive papers and tape to collections. Examples include sticky photo album sheets, rubber cement, scotch tape, non-acid-free glue sticks, and post-it notes.
Do not be afraid to consult a conservation expert if an important document is damaged.
5. Do not display photographs and important documents in direct sunlight.
Do try to use archival quality materials in preserving your photographs and documents (for example, UV-protected glass in frames, acid-free paper, acid-free photo sleeves).
6. Do not allow old forms of media to become inaccessible.
Do migrate and back-up analog, digital, and other forms of media to maintain access. Consider keeping at least one hard-copy (paper) version as a back-up, where feasible.
7. Do not keep newspaper clippings unless they have sentimental value. Place clippings in acid-free folders to protect other materials from acid migration.
Do consider photocopy clippings to preserve the information
8. Do put items in folders so they may lie flat and get proper air flow.
Do not use plastic bags or page protectors to protect valuable documents.
9. Do shred financial materials at regular intervals.
Do not feel obligated to keep financial records beyond legally required dates.
10. Do consult the Virginia Historical Society for more information about your collection and its care and preservation!
For more information about donating your personal or family papers to a repository like the Virginia Historical Society, see the Society of American Archivist’s Guide to Donating Your Personal or Family Papers to a Repository.
You may be entitled to take an income tax charitable deduction for your gift of rare materials. This might require the filing of an IRS Form 8283 with your tax return and the commissioning of a qualified appraisal. Ask for the Virginia Historical Society’s appraisers list for suggestions of professionals who will value your collection for a fee and provide information that can be submitted to the IRS. Always consult with your personal tax advisor or legal counsel with regard to any tax-related issues.
Copyright for writings and other original creative material (such as photographs or music) belongs to the creator, or his or her heirs, but may be legally transferred.
Laura Stoner is Assistant Archivist for Business Collections at the Virginia Historical Society.