Artist’s Legacy Toolkit: Preserve

The Dos and Don’ts of Preservation


DO store materials in an environmentally controlled climate, a room where the temperature and humidity are stable (68° Fahrenheit and 30% humidity are the ideal numbers). Windows and outside walls affect your ability to control those factors, so if possible, store your items in an interior room. Lights can also damage materials, so keep items in darkened rooms, closets, boxes, or cabinets.

DO use steel file cabinets and shelving. Keep folders upright and don’t overcrowd drawers. Beware of wood shelving – the gasses let off by wood may damage materials. DO raise materials off of the floor to avoid damage from flooding and leaks.

Artist's Legacy Toolkit: Preserve

DO scan and print or copy old newspaper clippings. Newsprint is highly acidic and contributes to decay of any surrounding materials, so either discard the original newspaper or put in a separate folder. DO use archival-quality storage such as acid-free envelopes, folders, and boxes and mylar sleeves, however, be aware these supplies are expensive. If your materials will be transferred to an archive, the archive may prefer to rehouse your items in their own storage materials. If you plan to hold on to fragile items for a long time, acid-free storage may be purchased to better store those items that are in danger of deteriorating. DO create a plan to save your materials in case of a disaster.

More Resources


DON’T eat, or drink, or smoke when working with or near records.

DON’T use staples, paperclips, or rubber bands on records. Temporary use is ok, and don’t try to remove these items if the material is fragile or could easily get mixed up. Vinyl-coated paperclips are better to use to keep papers together.

Artist's Legacy Toolkit: Preserve

DON’T use adhesives such as tape or glue. However, do not attempt to remove old tape or peel off glued-on items as doing so may leave behind a sticky residue and/or damage items.

DON’T fold or roll documents. If you have documents that have been folded or rolled for a long time, don’t immediately unfold or unroll them. Consult preservation professionals for techniques on how to safely relax documents.

DON’T digitize as your only method of preservation, and keep originals when you do digitize. When’s the last time you looked at the old computers and hard drives you have in storage? Do you know what’s on them or the technology to look at the files? It’s nearly impossible to retrieve corrupt digital files. Keep hard copies of your materials and consult the Digital Files section for more information.

→ See Legacy Tool #10: Preservation Resources 
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