The Archive Lady: Archiving Oversized Documents

This week at Abundant Genealogy, Melissa Barker, aka The Archive Lady, discusses the best ways to preserve those oversized documents!

The Archive Lady: Archiving Oversized Documents

Katie from Tennessee asks “I have enjoyed reading your column on Abundant Genealogy and have gotten some great preservation tips. I hope you can help me with mine. How would I archive an oversized document like a large land grant certificate?”

Katie has asked a wonderful question. Many genealogists will encounter oversized documents in records collections. Many times, these are large certificates like a high school diploma, a teacher’s certificate, maps and land grant certificates. These large items are too big for a regular 8.5 x 11” file folder and even too big for an 8.5 x 14” file folder. Yet, they still need to be protected and preserved.

This week at Abundant Genealogy, Melissa Barker, aka The Archive Lady, discusses the best ways to preserve those oversized documents!

Oversized Tennessee Land Grant, Houston County, TN. Archives

I get this question all the time as an archivist and I have helped many patrons archive their oversized documents with some easy-to-obtain archival materials. It is very important that all documents, even oversized documents, remain flat and are archived flat. This means that you do not want to roll up the oversized documents. The act of rolling and unrolling documents can cause damage over time. So, first and foremost make sure the oversized document is flat. To learn how to flatten rolled documents see my previous column (Flattening Rolled Documents https://abundantgenealogy.com/archive-lady-flattening-rolled-documents/)

The items that need to be purchased for this project are oversized file folders and an oversized box. These items can be purchased at any online archival materials store (see list below). These items should be acid free, lignin free and have passed the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test). This information should be printed on the packaging of the archival materials. This process will give your document two layers of archival protection. The file folder is the first layer of protection and placing the file folder containing the document in an archival box is the second layer of protection. Having multiple layers of protection is always a good thing in records preservation.

Examples of Oversized File Folders and Boxes

Example of Oversized File Folders and Boxes

Examples of Oversized File Folders and Boxes

Example of Oversized File Folders and Boxes

It is also very important to pay attention to where documents are stored and in what environment they are being stored. Obviously not everyone can live in an archive, although wouldn’t that be fun! But home archivists can strive to provide the best storage area for their genealogy records as possible. Temperature and humidity levels are very important numbers to pay attention to in your storage area. In the archives, we keep our storage area at a constant 55 degrees and humidity levels at a constant 35%.

Houston County, TN. Archives Records Vault

Houston County, TN. Archives Records Vault

The most important part to remember is to keep the temperature consistent as much as possible. Varying temperatures can cause damage to records over time. Humidity levels are also very important to monitor and keep at a consistent level. Our homes are not archives but we can strive to keep our records stored in a cool, dark and dry place. I normally suggest storing family records that have been archived on shelves in a dark, cool closet or even under the bed where it is dark and cool. Never store genealogical records in an attic, basement or garage.

Getting these oversized documents digitized will also help with preservation. Many of us do not have scanners that are large enough to digitize our oversized records. Using a digital camera to take good quality photograph of the document is a good idea. Another option is to locate a local printing store or print shop and see if they can digitize oversized documents. Digitizing our genealogical documents is always good practice in case something happens to the originals.

Our oversized documents need just as much care and archiving as our regular sized documents. Using the archival materials and process described will insure they are preserved for future generations.

Archival Material Websites

Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. Archival tissue paper and boxes can be purchased at any of the following online archival stores. They all have online catalogs and paper catalogs that can be sent to your home. Also, be sure to sign up for email notifications because they periodically have sales and will send out email notifications.

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Houston County, TN. Archives Records Vault

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If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

Melissa Barker - The Archive Lady

Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

©2017, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.

About the Author

Melissa Barker
Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation.