Six Tips to Preserve Your Election Collections

January 18, 2009

Across the nation, Americans are saving newspapers, posters, buttons, and bumper stickers to commemorate the historic election and inauguration of Barack Obama, America's first African American president. Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), encourages citizen-collectors to make sure that their presidential inauguration collections will be preserved long into the future.

"The election day newspaper--cared for properly--will still be there years from now to remind us and future generations of this singular moment in American history," Radice said. "This is a great time to raise awareness of the need to protect election and inauguration-related items from common threats such as high temperature, humidity, and light exposure."

This guidance was excerpted from Caring for Your Family Treasures by Heritage Preservation, IMLS's partner in Connecting to Collections, a multi-year, multi-faceted initiative that aims to help museums and libraries save their collections from poor storage conditions, pest infestation, and exposure to light, humidity, and high temperatures.

Follow these simple preventive steps to keep your treasures safe and sound for the next generation:

1.      If you feel comfortable, your treasures will be comfortable. When you feel hot or cold, damp or dry, so do your treasures. You wouldn't feel comfortable living in the basement or attic and neither are they. You feel better when there is good circulation; so do they.

2.      Avoid extremes of temperature and humidity. Strive to maintain as moderate and stable a level (72 degrees Fahrenheit and 50 percent relative humidity) as practically possible. When choosing where to display or store objects remember that the conditions of the interior walls, room, and closets are more stable than those on the exterior.

3.      Create micro-climates and use protective covers. Matting and framing with proper materials creates protective micro-climates, as do chemically stable boxes (even boxes

within boxes). Use dust covers on stored objects and polyester liners on wooden shelves to protect your treasures from dust and pollutants.

4.      Limit light exposure. The damaging effects of light are cumulative. Take precautions with the amount and type of light to which your treasures are exposed.

5.      Inspect your treasures regularly and tend to problems as they arise. Regularly checking your treasures will help you monitor and tend to problems as they arise. A water condensation problem might not be present in the summer, but left unattended during the winter, could cause serious damage.

6.      Be sure that any alterations are reversible. Respect the original historic materials and structure. Don't cut an artwork to fit a frame. And if you must clip a photograph for your scrapbook, do it to a copy and keep the original intact elsewhere.