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Storing & Preserving Newspapers

Newspapers capture the stories and perspectives of a single moment in time. Once read, they are meant to be discarded or recycled. Conversely, because they capture this single moment, they become important to preserve as part of a developing historical record. Researchers, historians, and genealogists all rely on newspaper accounts as primary sources of information. And, there is probably not a household in existence without a collection of newspaper clippings—of births, weddings, deaths and all activities in between.

In any discussion of newspaper preservation, there are two areas to consider. The first area is the preservation of the information. For many years, microfilming newspapers was the most popular method for preserving the stories printed in a newspaper. Today, we have moved to photocopying and digitization.

The second area is the preservation of the actual newspaper itself as an important historical artifact. Many people believe that we need to have copies of original newspapers to ensure a lasting and accurate record. But, newspapers are inherently unstable. Printed on a highly acidic wood pulp paper, they become dry, discolored and brittle over time. Handling them only adds to the damage. So, how then can we be expected to preserve these important resources for generations to come?

As with handling any kind of artifact, wash your hands thoroughly before handling any newspaper. Take care if wearing gloves, as there will be some loss of dexterity and brittle newspapers may be more easily damaged. First, organize your collection chronologically by publication. Lay the papers flat and unfold them. Take an accurate measurement so that you can select large enough storage enclosures. Place each newspaper flat in a primary enclosure such as a polyester sleeve or paper folder. Identify the issue on the outside of the folder with acid-free labels or a no. 2 pencil. Place the folders in a buffered, acid- and lignin-free storage box with a deep lid to block out light and dust. Do not overstuff the box. Identify the contents on the outside of the box so that you can easily locate a specific issue when necessary. Store the box horizontally in a dry, relatively cool location with stable temperature and relative humidity.

If you are interested in displaying your newspaper, it is recommended that a high quality copy be made and displayed instead of the original.

For more information:

Preservation Measures for Newspapers via the Library of Congress.