Collections Care: Paper

Almost everyone has some sort of paper document. Whether it be newspaper clippings, art work, birth certificates, licenses, or other records, these papers come in a variety of conditions on an assortment of paper types. When paper was first being developed it was made from plant fibers and cloth, and as a result was very durable. As the production of paper evolved toward machine made types from wood it became more vulnerable to heat and moisture. Extreme temperature or humidity as well as frequent changes in temperature or humidity are harmful to paper. Because of chemicals and additives that are used in the paper making process it is also susceptible Pests can be devastating to paper.

to discoloration caused by contact with other chemicals. Damage can also be caused by other sources such as insects, fungi, ultraviolet light, and the oils in our skin.  Because of the many ways paper is able to be damaged it is important to know how you can avoid the damage that can occur.

One of the best and easiest ways that one can avoid damage to paper is to keep them in a climate controlled environment. Papers do best in an environment that is at a temperature no higher than 72 degrees Fahrenheit, along with a relative humidity around 50 percent. It is important that as you are storing paper that it is not placed in a damp basement, or uninsulated garage or attic where the temperature would become excessively hot during summer or too cold during the winter.

Exposure to UV light can cause severe discoloration, as seen in this i,age.

Another way of taking good care of your paper is to avoid touching it with bare hands. A lot of times even just the oils on a hand can discolor the paper over time. Along with avoiding touch, excessive handling can damage paper by increasing wear and the probability of tearing.

Be sure not to fold and refold your documents, as it will create weak points.

It is important to note that it is not a good idea to use tape, glue, staples, or paperclips on valuable papers. These will all cause damage over time that may make them impossible to repair. With regards to cleaning and repairs of paper it is usually better to leave those jobs to professionals that will know more about specific types of papers. If you take the proper steps in preserving your paper you will be able to enjoy it for many more years to come. If you have any questions about the care of your personal papers, please contact Frontier Homestead State Park. The conservation professionals there can be a great resource in helping you preserve your past.