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Jefferson County History Center at Jefferson College: Preservation

Preservation Week inspires action to preserve personal, family, and community collections in addition to library, museum, and archive collections.  As part of the Pieced Together year long exhibition, join the Jefferson County History Center and the Jefferson College Library to learn how you can explore your own family history and preserve the books, photos, and documents of your family for generations to come.   Read about preservation techniques, learn more about preservation, stop by the Jefferson County History Center to view an exhibit on preservation or make an appointment to begin your Jefferson County family history journey.



Photographs can be made with an assortment of materials and a variety of processes.  Proper identification is key for determining appropriate storage and handling.  Northeast Document Conservation Center and The Image Permanence Institute at The Rochester Institute of Technology has some great information on photographic identification. 

Having a clean, dry, organized work area free of food and drink, handling photographs with clean hands or while wearing clean nitrile gloves, not touching the image area of a photograph and handling it by the edges or the envelope or folder it is in are the basics of caring for any photograph.   Marking photographs should be avoided.  If markings must be made, a soft graphite pencil or an archival ink pen should be used to write on the back and near the edge of the photo.  It is preferable to write on the photograph’s housing materials.  Paper clips, rubber bands, or other mechanical fasteners to mark or organize photographs should not be used.  Self-adhesive tape, sticky notes, glue, or other adhesives should also not be used. 

Photographs should be stored in relatively dry, cool, and stable environments; a relative humidity (RH) of 30-50% and a temperature below 70° are best.  Storage in attics, basements, and garages or areas with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes should be avoided.  Light exposure should be limited and distance from radiators and vents should be noted.

Photographs should be housed within protective enclosures such as folders, or sleeves.  Paper enclosures should be photo-safe and free of colorants that bleed.  Plastic enclosures that are made of uncoated polyester, polyethylene, and polypropylene are suitable.  However, they should not be used in uncontrolled storage environments as photographic emulsions may stick to the plastic enclosures if exposed to high RH.  A benefit of plastic enclosures is that the handling of frequently viewed items is minimized.   Whether matted or enclosed in paper or plastic, all photos should be stored in photo-safe boxes.

“Care, Handling, and Storage of Photographs.” Care, Handling and Storage of Photographs - Collections Care (Preservation, Library of Congress),

Works on Paper

Have clean hands and a clean work area, free of food and drink, when working with paper documents.   Always use pencil and not ink for any necessary marks or inscriptions.  Any marks or inscriptions that must be made should be done on a hard surface to avoid making impressions on other surfaces.  Do not use paper clips, dog ear folding, rubber bands, self-adhesive tape and/or glue on any works on paper. 

Paper documents should be stored in a cool room that is around 68° (=/- 2°) and that is relatively dry at 40 -45%.   The environment should be clean and free of bugs.  Avoid attics, basements, and garages or areas with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes. Be mindful of the distance from radiators and vents in the storage area.    Exposure to light should be minimal and indirect. 

Supportive, protective enclosures such as acid -free folders, mats, document boxes, or stiff polyester film sleeves should be used to store paper documents.   Oversized papers should be stored unfolded and flat, or if very large, can be rolled and stored in tubes.  Acidic papers should be stored individually and isolated to prevent acid migration to other objects and papers.  

“Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper.” Care, Handling and Storage of Works on PaperCollections Care (Preservation, Library of Congress)


More than likely, books are a part of your life.  You may even own a book that is important to your family history; a family bible, a journal, or a special book that has been passed down from one generation to the next. With care, a book can be a treasure for generations.

Hands should be clean when looking at books.   Most of the dirt on a book cover and pages occurs when dirt from oily fingers builds up.   While wearing white gloves seems advisable, it is not due to the gloves limiting the dexterity in the fingers when touching the pages and turning brittle pages and can actually do more harm. 

When removing a book from the shelf, the headcap (the fold of binding material found at the top of the spine) should not be pulled.  It is one of the most vulnerable parts of a book.   Pushing the books next to it back some in order to be able to grab the spine and put the book off is the better way to remove it from the shelf.  

As with other archival materials, do not use paper clips, “dog ear” folds, rubber bands, self-adhesive tape, post-it notes, or glue on books.  Avoid storing newspaper clippings, flowers, letters, and other miscellaneous material in a book as they can leave stains and stress the binding.  Books can be cleaned by dusting with a clean cloth or soft brush and more difficult dirt can be removed by rubbing gently with a white plastic drafting eraser.

Books should be properly stored in cool temperatures and a relative humidity of 40 – 45%.  Do not wrap books in plastic wrap, trash bags, or other types of plastic bags.   Avoid storing books in attics, basements, or garages where temperature, humidity fluctuates, where pest could be a problem, and leaks are common.  Fragile books may require additional protection that include polyester book jackets, alkaline paperboard wrappers or boxes.

“Care, handling, and storage of books. Care, Handling and Storage of Books” - Collections Care (Preservation, Library of Congress). (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2023, from

Mending Paper

Tears, breaks, and losses in paper are very common. Experts use special methods to repair these issues because using tape can cause more damage in the future than what is being fixed in the present. Adhesives can darken and become brittle over time. Although a tape may be labeled as archival or acid free, damage can still occur and should not be used.

The method of mending most often used by conservators is to apply specially made mending paper to the tear and adhere it with wheat starch paste. Wheat starch will not darken, damage, or become brittle as it ages. There are many different types of mending papers available. Three kinds are Tengucho which is a very thin, lightweight paper and is good for mending tears on light medium weight papers. It is also a good choice when you must mend over media, as it is thin enough for most media to show through. Uso Mino Thin is a medium-weight, natural colored, long fibered Japanese paper. It is good for mending tears and filling losses on medium heavy weight papers. Guard Strips or Hinging Tissue is a medium weight paper, and comes in pre-made strips that can be easily torn for simple mends. It comes in a variety of widths for different types of applications.

In addition to the mending paper, other supplies needed include blotting paper, spunbonded polyester, tweezers, wheat starch paste, past brush, Plexiglas platens, and a ½ to 2-pound item to use as a weight.

The process to mend a document is to gently surface clean around the tear in the document, mix the desired amount of paste by adding the starch to water and mixing to the consistency of a very thick cream. Next prepare the work area by placing a sheet of blotting paper 1 inch larger than the document on each side and place a piece of spunbonded polyester on top of the blotter.  Tear a piece of mending paper to the size of the tear on the document.  Place the mending paper on a scrap of blotter and brush a thin even layer of paste on to the mending strip.  With a tweezer, pick up the mend and place it on the tear you are repairing.  Cover the mended area with spunbonded polyester and a piece of blotter, then place a Plexiglas platen and the weight on top.   Leave it sit until completely dry (usually 5-15 minutes) depending on the size of the mend.  Once dry, trim the “tails” of the mend that may be hanging off the edge of the document.

Sometimes a document is too damaged to be mended easily.  An alternative method of preservation is to place the document in a clear polyester sleeve.  The sleeve will hold the document together and allow it to be handled more safely without mending.

Missouri Secretary of State - IT. (n.d.). Mending Papers. Conservation Services. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from