The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

Mary in New York asks: “I have seen your webinars and writings about removing all metal from documents and replacing it with plastic fasteners. I have several spiral notebooks that contain my grandmother’s family recipes. Should I remove the metal coil from the notebook?”

The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

I am so glad Mary asked this question. Metal fasteners are attached to many of our genealogical records. Such things as staples, metal paper clips and even “straight-ins.” This metal can be very damaging if it is left on the documents. The damage can come in the form of holes, tears and damage from the metal if it has rusted. All metal should be removed from genealogical documents to prevent any damage and to prolong the life of those wonderful documents. When I teach, lecture and write about records preservation, my very first instruction is to remove all metal from genealogical and historical documents.

The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

Examples of spiral bound notebooks

Mary has a type of record book that could pose a problem for any genealogist. Spiral bound notebooks have been around for many years. Originally called a loose–leaf spiral notebook in which the pages are held in position by a spiral or coil of metal wire. The use of these notebooks for all kinds of purposes is still done today. In Mary’s case, her grandmother used these types of notebooks to write down family recipes and it is a true family treasure.

There are actually three options for Mary in this situation. If the coiled metal in the notebook is not rusted or damaged in anyway, it would be permissible by records preservation standards to leave the entire notebook intact. Even though archivists strive to remove all metal, in this case, sometimes it is best to leave things as they are. I recommend that the pages in the notebook be digitized completely and then place the entire notebook in an archival file folder and then into an archival box.

The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

The second option is to remove the metal coil but unscrewing it out of the notebook. Some notebooks will allow for this option to be performed with no trouble at all. But if there is any resistance or difficulty trying to unscrew the metal coil out of the notebook, stop immediately. The last thing you want is to damage the pages in the notebook that contain genealogical information.

The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

Unscrewing the metal coil

The third option and one that many archivists choose to implement is to remove the metal coil from the notebook. This is especially true if the metal coil is rusted, damaged or causing damage in any way to the pages inside the notebook. In this process, it is recommended that all the pages in the notebook be digitized first. It should be noted that removing the metal coil will make scanning the pages of the notebook much easier. Next, using wire cutters, snip the metal coil in several places along the length of the coiled metal. Slowly and carefully, remove each section of coiled wire. If the wire will not remove easily, make more cuts with the wire cutters to make smaller pieces to make removal easier. If the metal coil is rusted and sticking to the pages, remove the metal very slowly as to not inflict more damage. This process is tedious, but well worth the time taken.

The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?

Cutting metal coil with wire cutters

Once the metal coil is removed, make sure to keep the pages in their original order and place the notebook in an archival file folder. If desired, a plastic paper clip can be used to clip the pages of the notebook together but if the notebook is kept in a file folder, a fastener is not needed. The file folder can then be place in an archival box or in a filing cabinet.

As always, if you do not feel comfortable doing the preservation procedures yourself, please consult with a professional conservator.

Preserving our most precious genealogical documents and records is the only way they will survive for our descendants to enjoy.

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Learn more about removing metal fasteners in…. Legacy Family Tree Webinar

Metal Paper Clips, Rubber Bands and Tape, OH MY!

Metal Paper Clips, Rubber Bands and Tape, OH MY!
http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1614

What are Vertical Files? Get My Legacy QuickGuide and Find Out!

Vertical Files: What Are They and How To Use Them

Vertical Files: What Are They and How To Use Them

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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.

1 Comment on "The Archive Lady: What to Do with Spiral Notebooks?"

  1. Stephanie | 1 June 2017 at 7:56 pm |

    I have many papers from my ancestors’ records that are fastened together using steel (at least, I guess they are steel since they haven’t rusted) straight pins. I hate to take them apart and keep the pages in separate sleeves, so I’ve kept them fastened and store each set in a sleeve. Most of the documents are legal or business records, but some are personal. In most cases, the pages aren’t numbered and I don’t want to write on the documents. What’s your suggestion for these?

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