5 tips for archiving at home from an archivist

5 tips for archiving at home from an archivist

Oct. 23, 2020
Lisa Duncan headshot

Have you been thinking about cleaning out your closets, garages, and storage areas? October is American Archives Month, and there's no time like now.

Last October, we invited the community to join us for Family & Community Archives Day, an event hosted by Special Collections.  

Lydia Otero, local historian and former Mexican American Studies professor at the University of Arizona, explains in a video interview why archives are powerful. She also asks us to consider what it means if you or the history of your family are not included in archives. 

Assistant Librarian and Collections Management Archivist Lisa Duncan also gave a great presentation at the event that included some easy tips to preserve your favorite photographs and important papers.

Happy archiving!

Tip #1: Find a cool, dry, stable space with a consistent temperature.

  • Look for a storage space with a temperature that is less than 70° F and less than 60 percent humidity.
  • Store your items away from sources of daylight like doors and windows.
  • Interior rooms are better for storage than spaces with exterior walls where temperatures can change.

Tip #2: Get organized.

  • Avoid folding items and photocopy your news clippings (newsprint deteriorates quickly). 
  • Separate your items by the type of material.
  • Keep your photos away from the negatives.

Tip #3: Prepare your items for storage.

  • Remove metal paper clips, pins, and rubber bands.
  • Take off adhesives like tape, if possible.
  • Use pencils with a soft lead to label your photos.

Tip #4: Use containers to protect your items from being damaged.

  • Look for containers that passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT).
  • Choose acid-free folders and boxes. 

Tip #5: Be careful how you handle and display items. 

  • Make sure your hands are clean and dry.
  • Find a space that doesn't  food and drinks. 
  • Handle your photos by their edges, and use gloves to avoid fingerprint damage. 
  • Consider getting UV glass in your photo frames and limiting their display time.

More resources

Lisa Duncan's Archiving at Home PowerPoint Presentation

National Archives: How to Preserve Family Archives 

Minnesota Historical Society: Preserve your Family Treasures

Library of Congress: Personal Archiving: Preserving Your Digital Memories