Preservation Week Day 2: Preserving Pictures and Documents

This is the second post in a week-long series celebrating National Preservation Week.  NMAM blog posts in this series will discuss how to preserve your own modeling history. 

The instructions for your first RC system.  Your first AMA membership card.  Photographs of the trophy presentation for your Nats win.  The notes & research from the three years you spent building a scale model of a P-63.  All these things contain memories of your modeling career, as well as information about your life and the world around you.  Some simple changes to how you care for and handle these items will help them last a long time. 

This letter to a winner of the 1978 Tournament of Champions accompanied a check of prize money.  That’s definitely an accomplishment to remember!
This letter to a winner of the 1978 Tournament of Champions accompanied a check of prize money. That’s definitely an accomplishment to remember!
Source: National Model Aviation Museum, Donated by Mark Radcliff who flew a model in the event built by his father, George Radcliff., 2010.38.02.

Start off by:
1.  Washing & thoroughly drying your hands before handling any documents or photographs you want to preserve.
2.  Try to handle them only around the edges.  If it is larger, or fragile and needs more support do so, but keep your touch gentle.
3.  Explain what they are.  Use a soft lead pencil (like a 6B, which is available where most art supplies are sold) to write the basic info on the back of the photograph or document.  Stay away from using ink, as it can stain the front of the photograph, or bleed through paper.
4.  Don’t fold or roll the items to store them.

Ken Bonnema posing with his model airplane of the Reed Falcon, and the trophy his team won for Best Biplane at the 1984 Tournament of Champions.
Ken Bonnema posing with his model airplane of the Reed Falcon, and the trophy his team won for Best Biplane at the 1984 Tournament of Champions.
Source: National Model Aviation Museum, donated by Ken Bonnema in Memory of Don Chapman, 2011.22.01. Photograph provided by the donor.

5.  Don’t use any adhesive. Put them in a scrapbook using photo corners. 

6.  Keep them away from lots of sunlight and dust, as well as food and drink (boxes are great).
7.  Keep them in an environment where you consistently feel comfortable – it shouldn’t be too hot, or too cold.
8.  Photocopy any articles, especially newspaper articles, that you want to keep.  Newspaper is horribly acidic and will become discolored and brittle over time.

Notes diagraming the landing gear for a F4F Grumman Wildcat.
Notes diagraming the landing gear for a F4F Grumman Wildcat.
Source: National Model Aviation Museum, Donated by Gary Santoni, in honor of Mrs. Edwin Watts, 2007.33.03.

Go a bit further:
1.  Purchase acid-free folders and boxes from a museum products supplier like Gaylord  or Hollinger Metal Edge.
2.  Use acid-free paper between pages or photographs.  (Tip: check out your local office supply store and look for high-quality business papers that are said to be “acid-free and lignin-free”)

Learn more:
Today’s ALA-sponsored webinar on Preserving Your family photos. 

Thursday’s ALA-sponsored webinar on Dealing with Suppliers of Archival Products.

National Archives Family Archives Preservation tips

Canadian Conservation Institute’s Advice Page 

AMA Archivist Jackie Shalberg’s Preserving Scrapbook Advice in Model Aviation May 2013 and June 2013.

If you want more advice on preserving your documents & archives, feel free to ask your questions to the museum’s blog, Facebook page, or by emailing staff directly at mariav@modelaircraft.org

Preservation Week - pass it onSponsored by the ALA’s Association for Library Collections and Technical Services and partner organizations, Preservation Week will inspire actions to preserve personal, family and community collections of all kinds, as well as library, museum and archive collections. It will raise awareness of the role libraries and other cultural institutions can play in providing ongoing preservation information. More information can be found at: www.ala.org/preservationweek.

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