Preserving Election Memorabilia and Other Ephemera

Political campaign buttons
Every election year produces a variety of collectibles, including posters, campaign buttons and newspaper clippings. These items—as well as many other mementos, such as tickets, brochures, programs, advertisements, greeting cards and more—are known as ephemera because they are intended to have only short-term usefulness. However, with the proper preservation and storage, even ephemera can last well into the future.

There are some basic things you can do to keep these items safe.

  • Keep items in a place that maintains a steady and moderate temperature and humidity level. Never store collectibles in the attic or basement. Dramatic changes in temperature and humidity can accelerate deterioration.
  • Before handling newspaper, wash your hands thoroughly. Newspapers are inherently unstable; handling only adds to the potential for damage. Newsprint should be isolated to avoid staining adjacent materials. Store newspaper clippings in envelopes and newspaper sections in boxes large enough for the paper to lay completely flat. If possible, make copies of articles on alkaline paper to preserve the content.
  • Wear cotton gloves when handling paper and other artifacts.
  • When moving fragile or brittle papers, make sure they are well-supported underneath using a file folder or board.
  • Use polyester sleeves or archival folders to store individual paper items within an archival box. When storing multiple papers in a folder, use interleaving paper to protect from adjacent materials.
  • Light can cause irreparable damage to artifacts. Store items in boxes with deep lids to prevent light damage.
  • When displaying items, protect them from natural and fluorescent lighting. Use UV-filtering acrylic or film on any frames and filters on fluorescent bulbs.
  • If you choose to display documents, it is recommended that a high-quality copy be used in place of the original. Keep the original in a box protected from light damage.
  • Small, flat items such as campaign buttons and pins can be mounted on an archival-quality mat board and framed. These items can also be stored in small archival zip-top bags and placed inside a box.
  • Wrap plastic collectibles loosely with acid-free tissue and store in a box with enough space for good air circulation. Do not place with any other artifacts or collectibles.

Related Topics:
Storing & Preserving Newspapers
Guide to Collections Care