The Archive Lady: Preserving Our Ancestors’ Diaries
George in Vermont asks: “I enjoyed your Legacy Family Tree webinar on Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist very much. I have a collection of diaries that belonged to my great-grandmother that date from 1900-1945. Can you please tell me the best way to preserve the actual handwritten books?”
Diaries are some of the most unique sources of family history found in family records. Many genealogists can only hope to find diaries in the family records they inherit. Diaries can tell us so much about our ancestors lives and the lives of others that interacted with our ancestors. Not to mention, being able to see our ancestor’s own handwriting. These very personal record sources have helped many genealogy researchers by supplying dates of events, family secrets, family tragedies and family successes. Diaries can also help family historians figure out why the family moved out west or immigrated to another country.
Properly preserving diaries can prolong the life of the record and the information they contain. The preservation process is quite simple and only requires purchasing a few archival items:
- Archival Box: The most important archival item that is needed is an archival box. In the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we like to use an adjustable 1-piece rare book box or a custom clamshell rare book box, which can be purchased at any online archival supply store (see list below).
- Archival Tissue Paper: Tissue paper is not always necessary in this process but in an archive setting we like to use archival tissue paper to wrap the diary for additional protection before the book is placed in the book box. Also, if there are pasted items in the diary such as newspaper clippings, it is suggested that archival tissue paper be placed between the pages where these items are located to deter ink transfer or other damage. Feel free to insert archival tissue paper anywhere in the diary that you feel necessary; it will be an additional layer of protection.
Wrap the diary in the tissue paper. Do not use any tape or adhesive to secure the tissue paper, just fold the ends neatly. Place the diary in the book box. If the diary doesn’t fit snuggly, crumple up some archival tissue paper and put around the book so that it does fit snuggly in the book box. It is important that the diary does not move around in the box as that could cause damage.
When storing diaries, journals or any rare books, be sure to lay them down on their sides and do not stand them up on their ends. When stored upright, the pressure on the spine can be very damaging over time. Store the diaries in a cool, dark and dry place. Do not store in an attic, basement or where the humidity levels are too high.
If you are fortunate enough to have your ancestor’s diaries, use these simple steps to preserve them for future generations. The information contained in them could be the only place it was recorded.
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.
- Gaylord Archival
- Hollinger Metal Edge
- University Products
- Archival Products
- Light Impressions
Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist Legacy QuickGuide
PDF Version: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1283
Amazon Kindle Version: http://amzn.to/2z0t7KN
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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.