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Storing Documents

Documents are important clues to the history of a region, an organization, a family or an individual. Protecting and preserving these documents is each generation’s responsibility. Below are five simple steps that will guide you in meeting this duty:

Select primary enclosures for documents based on expected use and the needs of the collection. Polyester enclosures allow for easy viewing, while paper enclosures can be more budget-friendly and help absorb acid in the document. File folders work well for storing larger quantities of documents in each enclosure, while envelopes and sleeves are best for individual documents requiring extra care. Placing sheets of buffered interleaving paper between documents that are stored together in the same enclosure helps reduce acid migration.

When possible, remove any extraneous materials that might damage the documents, such as paper clips, rubber bands, wrapping materials and other fasteners. If the materials are relevant to the collection (such as pressed flowers), place them in separate enclosures. Segregate poor quality paper such as newsprint from good quality paper to avoid acid migration. Do not place too many documents in a single folder. Overcrowding will increase handling and potential abrasion or tearing. Place documents in their enclosures in archival document cases or record storage cartons for further protection from dust, dirt, light and environmental pollutants. If storing documents vertically, use spacers and dividers in partially filled boxes to prevent sagging and to keep folders upright.

Store boxes in locations that are cool, dry and stable, without large changes in temperature and relative humidity. Avoid dirt, dust and other environmental pollutants. Consider using humidity indicator cards or data loggers to keep track of the environment.

When storing large or oversize documents, maps, posters and prints:

Select primary enclosures that provide adequate support. Use folders made of a heavier weight 10-20 pt. stock or 4-5mil polyester film. Documents should be sorted and grouped by size with no more than 10-12 in an enclosure.

For small collections, folders may be stored flat in drop-front storage boxes. Do not stack storage boxes more than two high. Try to keep the boxes as horizontal as possible when moving.

Large collections of oversized maps, posters, architectural drawings, etc. are best stored inside folders in metal flat files. Try to keep like-sized items together. When not in folders, place interleaving sheets between items for added protection and support.

For blueprints, documents that are rolled and are difficult to flatten and large collections in limited space, rolled storage is an option. Buffered tubes are better except for blueprints (which need unbuffered storage) and documents should be interleaved with tissue or other paper.

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