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Information on archiving documents

You’ve probably got masses of documents and it’s difficult to know where to start. You’ll need to identify which documents to keep and not to keep, and then establish a plan for how to organise and preserve them before anything gets lost or damaged.

Documents could be letters, postcards, certificates amongst many others scattered around the house or in the possesion of relatives.

Gathering and digitising needs organising and a plan.

Preserving family documents?

Document preservation requires proper storage and safe handling practices. Your family documents are best preserved if they are stored in a stable environment in these values: 16-21o C with 40-50% relative humidity (RH); with clean air and good circulation. High heat and moisture accelerate the chemical processes that result in embrittlement and discolouration to the documents.

Damp environments may also result in mould growth and/or be attractive to pests that may eat your documents or use it for nesting material. The central part of your home provides the safest storage environment than a hot/cold loft or damp basement.

Light also damages documents, especially that which contains high proportions of ultra violet, eg. fluorescent and natural day light. The effects of light exposure are cumulative and irreversible; they promote chemical degradation in the paper and fade inks. Try to avoid displaying valuable documents for this reason, so colour photocopies or photographs are a good way to display copies of your originals.

Family papers should be stored away in suitable storage containers, such as a folders, boxes, portfolios, etc., that will provide physical protection as well as protection from light and dust. The container itself should be made of stable permanent quality material that will not deteriorate itself.