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FROM:   Society Report   Florida Historical Society Report,
                Vol. 2 No. 2, page 4
History is all around us.

Be a historian: preserve historic documents in your own home.

This is the first in a series of articles on artifact preservation in the home.  It deals with objects made of paper.

Special places like museums, libraries, and archives preserve historical material for us, in the form of artifacts, books, and documents.  Our museum primarily cares for artifacts.

The Florida State Archives, located in the same building, cares for paper and photographic records, especially the public records of our state government.  They also preserve some local g government records and papers of private organizations and individuals.

In our own homes, most of us also collect (or accumulate) papers and photographs that can be of historic interest to ourselves, our families, or others.  It is important that we care for personal historical evidence in the same way that public institutions care for official objects and documents.

Here are a few easy steps that you can take to preserve treasured, historic personal papers and written records in your own home.

Don't use adhesive tape on a paper or photograph.  Tape has chemicals that can destroy   documents.

Don't do anything to a document or photograph that can't be undone (g.g., writing notes on   the document or photograph in ink, having it laminated, or repairing it with tape or glue).

Keep papers in cool, dry places away from heat sources, and away from sources of water such  as water pipes and humidifiers. (An environment with 70 F and 45% to 50% humidity is   ideal.)

Do not store papers in attics or basements.  These are places where heat, humidity, and insects  can do much damage.

Keep documents out of the light.  Store them in metal boxes or file cabinets.  For greater   protection use acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.

Store papers flat and unfolded for the best long-term preservation.  After many years, it may   not be possible to unfold papers without destroying them.

Metal paper clips and rubber bands on documents can rust or chemically destroy paper fibers.   Plastic paper clips are acceptable.

Keep food, beverages, and tobacco smoke away from documents.

For further information about preserving documents and objects and about preservation materials and supplies, contact professional conservators through your local museum or archives.

You can save many interesting and important documents for the next generation to enjoy by following these simple guidelines.  It only takes a few moments to preserve the history in your own home.

The following table will serve as a guide in the selection of suitable solvents for the removal of the various types of stains and reinforcing mediums frequently encountered on old papers:


Adhesive tape-----------------------------Carbon tetrachloride or benzene (VERY TOXIC)
Duco cement------------------------------Acetone
Glue (linen or glassine tape)---------------Warm water
Oil----------------------------------------Carbon tetrachloride or benzene (VERY TOXIC)
Paint--------------------------------------Mixture of alcohol and benzene
Rubber cement----------------------------Mixture of benzene and toluene
Scotch tape-------------------------------Mixture of benzene and toluene
Shellac------------------------------------Ethyl alcohol
Wax--------------------------------------Mixture of benzene and toluene

Even with the proper diagnosis and the selection of the best possible solvent, some stains may be difficult to remove.  Time and patience may be required, rough treatment must be carefully avoided.  If the size of the paper to be treated is small and if the equipment is available, a large extractor of the Soxhlet type is frequently highly effective in the removal of stubborn stains from fragile material.  By the use of the extractor the paper is washed repeatedly with newly distilled hot solvent, so that even long-standing residues may be removed without any mechanical action whatever.  A certain amount of caution must be observed in the use of the organic solvents mentioned as they are all somewhat poisonous to breather and, with the exception of carbon tetrachloride, inflammable.  It is recommended that all cleaning operations be carried out in a well ventilated room away from open flame.

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