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Caring for Your Treasures at Home

How you handle and take care of the things you are saving will make a big difference in how long they last. Learn what to do, and what not to do, to ensure that your treasures are preserved.

Simple steps to preserving your family treasures - Light, temperature, humidity, pollutants, pests, and handling all affect how rapidly objects deteriorate. Learn a few basic things you can do to save your heirlooms.

Audio and Video Tape Recordings - The images and sounds captured on video tapes and audio tapes do not last forever unless they are copied periodically. Learn how to care for and use them. (See Digital Media for help with digital video and audio recordings.)

Books - Find out how to handle, care for, and store books—not in the basement or attic!

Digital Media - People often think that electronic records are more durable than paper, but they are actually more fragile, and the technology is changing all the time. Get valuable tips on how to keep electronic records intact and accessible.

Matting and Framing - Learn how to mount your paper object or photographs in frames for display and safekeeping, what materials to use, and what to tell your framer if you decide not to do the work yourself.

Paper - Learn what to do and what not to do if you want drawings, newspapers, and other papers, to last.

Photographs and slides  - Cool, dry and dark are the best conditions for preserving photos, negatives, and slides. Learn more about how to care for, display, and store your precious pictures.

Scrapbooks and Albums - Get tips on how to handle and preserve the contents of old albums and how to make a new album that will last and won’t damage the items displayed in it.

For More Information

Much of the information in this section is taken from “Saving Your Family’s Treasures,” in My History Is America’s History: 15 Things You Can Do to Save America ’s Stories, a publication of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1999). The complete guidebook offers a way to explore family history and shows how family stories can contribute to the history of the nation. An extensive resource section lists relevant books, films, and places to visit. Look for it at your local library. Please also see Creating Family Archives: A Step-by-Step Guide to Saving Your Memories for Future Generations, written by Margot Note and published by the Society of American Archivists in 2019.