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Simple Steps to Preserving Your Treasures

Light, temperature, humidity, pollutants, pests, and handling all affect how rapidly objects decay. Here are a few basic things you can do to save your heirlooms:

  • Display or store your treasures in a stable, clean environment. Filtered air, a temperature of 72°F or below, and humidity between 45 and 55 percent are ideal goals. Day to day, try to avoid dampness, too much heat, and dramatic changes in temperature and humidity. If you feel comfortable, your treasures probably will, too.
  • Location, location, location! Display and store your treasures away from heat sources, outside walls, basements, and attic. Don’t hang paintings over the radiator or fireplace.
  • Shun the sun and fluorescent light. They fade and discolor most treasures and are especially dangerous to fabrics and anything on paper.
  • Check for signs of pests. Holes in furniture or textiles, wood shavings, and tiny droppings are all evidence. Consult a conservator if you spot trouble.
  • Heirloom allergies. Your treasures can be harmed by abrasive cleaners; dry-cleaner’s bags; glues, adhesive tapes, and labels; pins and paper clips; acidic wood, cardboard or paper; and pens and markers.
  • Even if it is broken, don’t fix it! A smudged painting, torn photograph, or broken vase may seem easy to fix. They aren’t. Well-intended but amateur repairs usually do more harm than good. Consult a conservator for advice on valued items.