Caring For Your Own Records

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Many people have family papers and books that they would like to keep in good condition for years to come. Here we give  simple, practical advice on how you can preserve your own collection. There are three main areas of preservation - handling, packaging and storage.

Handling | Packaging | Storage


Careful handling of documents can extend their longevity, ensuring they are still in existence for generations to come.

Before handling any document, ensure that:

  • Your hands are clean. Hands should be washed before and after handling documents. 
  • The area you are using to consult the records is clear of any obstructions that may damage the documents.
  • Any nail varnish worn is removed or nitrile gloves worn.
  • There are no items of food or drink in the vicinity as these could easily be spilled or dropped onto your documents.

When using documents, treat them with respect:

  • Don’t lean on them or place notepads on them. Indentations are easily made but difficult to reverse.
  • Always use a soft pencil (e.g. 2B) to take any notes. Don't use pens as accidents happen, even to the most careful person.


By packing your documents in folders and boxes, you are protecting them from hazards such as heat, light, dust and careless handling. It also enables you to keep the records in order and grouped together by subject or person if necessary. 
Before you spend time and money packaging your collection, go through the documents and remove all harmful items, including:

  • acidic envelopes
  • coloured folders
  • PVC wallets
  • elastic bands
  • pink legal tape
  • steel fastenings
  • paper clips  

Envelopes and coloured folders probably contain acid which is harmful to your records and should be replaced with acid free folders. Ideally, these folders will be tied using acid free cotton tape.The plasticizer in PVC wallets will break down over time and should be replaced with polyester wallets. Steel fastenings such as paper clips and pins should be replaced with brass paper clips, as they don’t rust. 


Documents prefer a temperature of around 15º and a relative humidity of around 50%. Documents should be stored away from direct sources of heat and light. Extremes of temperature can cause a speed up of the acid process while extremes in relative humidity will cause the documents to absorb moisture, swell and become distorted. 

Little used spare rooms are ideal storage places for documents while attics, cellars and conservatories are least suitable due to their fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Items should not be stored against outside walls as condensation may collect there.


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