Newspapers capture the stories and perspectives of a single moment in time. Once read, they are meant to be discarded or recycled. But because they capture a moment, they are an important part of the historical record. Researchers, historians and genealogists all rely on newspaper accounts as primary sources of information. And most households have a collection of newspaper clippings—of births, weddings, deaths and everything in between.
In any discussion of newspaper preservation, there are two areas to consider. The first is the preservation of the information, which you can do by photocopying and/or scanning and digitally storing the contents.
The second area is the preservation of the physical newspaper as an important historical artifact. Newspapers are inherently unstable. Printed on a highly acidic wood pulp paper, they become dry, discolored and brittle. Handling them only adds to the damage. So how do we 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.
- For institutions, organize the 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.
- Label 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.
- Label the outside of the box so that you can easily locate a specific newspapers when necessary.
- Store the box horizontally in a dry, relatively cool location with stable temperature and relative humidity.
- If you want to display your newspaper, display a high-quality copy instead of the original.
For more information:
Preservation Measures for Newspapers from the Library of Congress.