Storing and Handling Documents and Antique Paper: A Guide

Most things nowadays are done by way of digital documents that even receiving a handwritten card is considered a welcome surprise. That is probably the reason why people such as I turn to collecting antique documents like magazines, letters or even just preserving old family documents. While it may seem easy to preserve these old papers as compared to other types of antique collections, there are some things to take note off.

Some Basic Handling Tips

When you first receive the document, wash your hands (as you should prior to any handling of it), and then remove any staples, pins or fasteners. You could choose between storing each item in acid-free or archival plastic sleeves. Books can be stored in drawers, sandwiched between acid-free tissue paper. Normal paper contains Lignin which will break down and cause it to become acidic after some time. These acids will also leech into the documents stored with it, causing rapid deterioration.

The Less You Do The Better

Some people mistakenly think that tears and other injuries should be fixed. Tape is one of the most “common amateur repairs” according to conservator Christopher McAfee, and most detrimental. Tape can be hard to remove and it can also “bond” with the paper fibres, leading to a chemical reaction that may lead to discolouration and brittleness. Laminating is also irreversible and can severely decrease the value of the document, so it should be avoided. Glue also makes antique books hard to open, so the less you do the document, the better it is.

Keep Documents Away From Humidity And Light

Humidity is probably the number one enemy for all things conservation, but it can be very hard to avoid in the tropics. Another issue is light, because the UV rays speed up the chemical process that results in paper degradation. You could opt for silica gel and related products for an inexpensive storage solution, but should you want to display your documents, opt for UV-filtering glass over the document. The safest solution is to store in a locker or facility. Here at Storefriendly Singapore, we have a range of storage lockers at your disposal, with 24/7 air conditioning and access. Having a self storage facility like Storefriendly prevents accidental damage through mould, and prolongs the longevity of your documents in a temperature-controlled environment.

For larger documents that may be more fragile like newspapers, a tip is to use hardback art portfolios (preferably with a closing mechanism) and acid free folders. All these can be found at your local art supply store and will not break the bank. Collecting antique documents is an incredibly fulfilling and intellectually stimulating hobby, as I have experienced myself. To have a window into the past, as well as knowing that you’re taking care of these documents to be enjoyed by future generations makes all the hassle worth it.