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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    « Lessons from the Archive: Finding Clues to Tell a Story | Main | Antiques from the Archives for Treasure Chest Thursday »

    Lessons from the Archive: How to Spoil a Baby Album

    Today I opened some old boxes in our basement and found that many of the treasures tucked inside have been damaged. The biggest culprit seems to be newsprint and newspapers that have infected other items through acid migration. This sweet little baby book, for example, was layered between two construction paper folders filled with grade school papers. The satin fabric cover of the book is stained with sad brown blotches.


    Inside, a folded piece of newsprint with a hand drawn picture has permanently damaged the first pages. To the right side of the photo you can see a distinct line from the newsprint page.

    In recent years I've been careful to use archival boxes when storing my ancestor's papers, but I've neglected looking back at my own things. This box was probably stashed away not long after we moved into our house in 1979, so the baby album was probably stored like this for 30 plus years, basically one generation.

    The entire box is a classic case of poor storage, and a good lesson in How Not to Archive Memorabilia. The box itself is low-grade corrugated cardboard. It contained a mixture of items spanning 30 years, from the 1950s through the late 1970s, including

    newspapers and clippings

    grade school paintings on newsprint

    school composition books

    beer mats from a trip to Germany

    satin covered baby album

    small Bible with cover falling off

    travel ticket stubs, brochures, etc.

    personal letters

    folders of school work and papers

    I haven't unpacked the box completely, but everything seems to be speckled with brown stains, presumably from the newsprint and cardboard. I think much of the damage would have been avoided if I had separated the newsprint items from other materials and stored these separately. The box itself probably contributed to the problem, as well.

    Although it's a little late to save the baby book, I plan to work my way through the contents in the next few days and try to salvage what I can.

    If you are 30 years old, or older, you may have a box of treasures you haven't looked at in a while. My box is a sad reminder of what can happen under poor storage conditions. I hope your treasures fare better!

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    Reader Comments (2)

    I wondered if these spots were like the marks you get on old baby clothes, no matter how carefully you pack them away. However, to be safe I'll be keeping the newsprint at a distance. Thanks for sharing.

    May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPauleen

    Great tips as always, Denise! I, too, tend to neglect some of my family's more recent history. It gets overlooked in the midst of busy life. Time to go check a few boxes in my attic!

    September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa / Smallest Leaf

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