Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, Offers Her Advice on Preserving and Protecting Oversized Documents
Dave Robison from Massachusetts asks: “I have been entrusted with two deeds from the First Church of Ludlow in Ludlow, Massachusetts. They are both 10.5” x 16”, one dated 1865 and the other 1892. Until last week, they had been stored in a safe deposit box. Now, they’re in my safe until I can deal with their storage. The church was founded in 1774, so I would guess that there are more documents to come! I have looked at a few of the archival products companies but their offerings are confusing to an amateur archivist like me. I bow to your expertise and advice.”
Dave asks a question that I suspect many genealogists wrestle with when it comes to oversized documents and photographs found in their family records. Many times, these are large certificates like a high school diploma, a teacher’s certificate, maps or land grant documents. In Dave’s case, he has been entrusted with oversized deeds to the First Church of Ludlow. These items are too big for a regular 8.5” x 11” file folder or even too big for an 8,5” x 14” file folder. Yet, they still need to be protected and preserved.
My advice to Dave and to anyone who has oversized documents is to purchase archival L-sleeves from any of the online archival materials stores (see list below). These L-sleeves are perfect for oversized documents and photographs and come in very large sizes to accommodate just about any oversized document. These sleeves are acid free, lignin free and have passed the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test). I also suggested to Dave that he should purchase a flat archival box to house the deeds once they have been encapsulated in the L-sleeves. These archival boxes can also be purchased at any of the online archival materials stores. These boxes are acid free, lignin free and have passed the P.A.T. and will allow Dave to place the documents flat in the box. Several documents or photographs can be stored in one box as long as each is in a separate L-sleeve. Once this is completed, the box just needs to be stored in a cool, dark, and dry storage place.
I would also like to address another problem Dave mentioned in his question. The utter confusion of locating and ordering archival materials from online archival store websites can be very confusing. I completely understand the confusion and downright frustration of genealogists who have a hard time finding what they need on an online catalog of an archival store. This is why I always encourage genealogists to request a FREE Catalog from the online store. All of the online archival materials stores have paper catalogs that they will send to your postal mail box for FREE. I like to shop online just as much as the next person, but even I have found that sitting down with a paper catalog from an archival store is much easier to find what I need. You may need to register with the archival store website, but it is FREE. Once you have registered, you can request your paper catalog and get started shopping! Also, the companies will send you emails with sales and percentage off coupon codes. This comes in very handy since archival materials can be quite pricey. Another great benefit is that a couple times a year, these stores will offer free shipping on all orders. This is when most archives usually place their large orders because they know they will get free shipping.
It only took about a week for Dave to receive his archival sleeves and box. They worked perfectly with his documents and he even sent me photographs of the completed project.
Preserving our genealogical records doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. With the right archival materials anyone can preserve their precious family records.
Online Archival Material Websites
Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. Archival sleeves for letters 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
- Light Impressions
- Archival Methods
- Print File Archival Storage
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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.
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