Dear Bibliobull –I am starting and hoping to collect letters worthy of archiving as part of Western Americana culture. These obviously do not need a home in an old shoe box. What is the best way to preserve these little gems for future generations? Keep in mind, I want to be able to view or study the contents of these ephemera, so lock boxes are out of the question.
Dear Postal –
If they are very valuable, they can be stored in archival quality acid free containers. University Products are one of the best catalogs for these materials.
Personally I think that’s boring. Especially if you are trying to sell such things and aren’t actually a conservator handling them with white cotton gloves.
If they are in danger of deteriorating from acid then you may want to spray them with a buffering agent. These are basically suspended forms of calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide which neutralizes the acid in the paper. The acid is what makes things go brittle and brown. Papersaver is relatively inexpensive and now if you look in the scrap book stores Krylon makes one. Bookeeper is a higher end version.
Once they are stabilized, if they are fragile put them in a soft plastic sleeve. Comic stores are great for these as they sell non reactive clear plastic bags. Then you can store them in acrylic toploaders. These are a hard plastic holder, which allows you and customers to SEE the item without touching it. Bagging fragile items in a soft sleeve first, allows you to remove it from the top-loader without tearing it.
If you are going to use these items for reference work, you should scan them BEFORE you store them. Scan them at a high enough resolution that you can read them without taking them out of storage. Then you can transcribe them from the screen when you need them. If you need to take another lower resolution image for a customer you can always do it through the holder.Biblio Bull-
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