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Do not underestimate the power of nature. Acidity, light, and widely fluctuating temperature and humidity are the greatest threats to your family papers. Plan ahead. If you are creating a family tree or oral history, use safe, durable, acid-free materials.

Use and Display

  • Do not laminate special papers; the process can be harmful and cannot be easily undone.
  • Consult a conservator before using any commercial deacidification products.
  • Avoid folding and unfolding papers; it weakens them. Place oversized items flat on larger pieces of acid-free mat board (also see Matting & Framing).


  • Store paper items in darkness and ration their time in the light – especially their moments in the sun.
  • Store loose papers unfolded in acid-free paper or stable plastic folders. Put fragile or torn documents in individual folders and keep the folders in acid-free (not wooden) boxes. Archival does not mean the same thing as acid-free.
  • Highly acidic materials like newspaper clippings often become yellow and brittle quickly. Separate them from other papers and photocopy or scan and print the clippings onto acid-free paper.
  • Bugs love glue and paper. Keep an eye out for creatures feasting on your precious papers.


  • Never use staples, rubber bands, tape, or glue on important papers.
  • Consult a conservator if you find evidence of dirt or mold on prized papers.