Managing Risks for Your Collections

Your Storage Environment

Store collectibles in cool, dry conditions. Avoid keeping records and collections in attics, basements and garages. These spaces often lack insulation and controlled heating and cooling. Basements can be damp, prone to flooding and mold growth.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true in preserving your personal collections. Costly treatment and complete loss can be avoided by taking steps to reduce risks. Storing your collections in places with some level of temperature and relativity control goes a long way toward halting or stalling the degradation reactions that cause objects to deteriorate. While most private homes do not have the environmental controls of libraries, choose the best places where you are able to control heating and cooling. Running dehumidifiers in summer months will help you to inhibit mold growth and pests in storage locations.

Consider the location of pipes overhead or nearby when selecting your home storage location options. Keep boxes of collections off the floor in areas where there may be a risk of flooding. Household cleaners, leftover house paints, and space heaters pose fire risks and should not be stored or used near your collections.

Inventory your collections and maintain a copy of that list in a secondary location. The importance of organizing and inspecting your collections cannot be overstated. The time spent on these activities will allow you to locate and take preventive steps when extreme weather is predicted.

Environmental Risks

Artifact deterioration is often the result of chemical reactions. Increased temperatures accelerate the rate of chemical reactions. For every 18°F (10°C) increase in temperature, there is a doubling of the rate of deterioration.

High relative humidity provides the water molecules needed to catalyze degradation reactions. Fluctuations in relative humidity also cause dimensional changes like curling, delamination of adhered materials, and cracking of surfaces.

Energy in the form of light fuels degradation reactions. All types of light, including visible light from both natural and artificial sources, can cause fading and deterioration. Ultraviolet light can be filtered out by preservation-quality glazing in frames or by filtering films on window. Keep colorful bindings, prints, photographs, and artwork away from sunlight. Replace bulbs with newer LED or fiber optic light sources that are far less damaging. Rotate works on display so that you limit each piece’s overall exposure.

Take steps to prevent unwanted pests, like insects and rodents, rather than treat infested collections with chemical insecticides and poisons.

Biological Enemies

Inspect your collections on a regular basis to check for evidence of pests. Maintaining low relative humidity and keeping spaces clean and tidy will discourage pests from invading your treasures and causing damage.

Small quantities of wet books and documents can be air-dried at home after a water event like a pipe leak or flooding. Contact a recovery vendor when you have a large number of affected materials. Keep an emergency kit stocked with a flashlight, gloves, face masks, plastic dropcloths, and paper towels to deal with minor emergencies.

Care and Handling

Many fasteners that we use every day at home or in the office can cause damage to fragile documents and books. Carefully remove old paperclips and staples that can damage paper and leave rust stains. Use soft ties instead of rubber bands that become brittle and can become stuck to fragile books and papers. Post-it notes are convenient but not the best choice for collections as the adhesive can damage older, weaker materials like paper, cloth, and leather.

Learn more at-home preservation tips for items ranging from artwork and paper-based items to textiles and digital files.

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