The Archive Lady: Removing Pencil Scribble – Abundant Genealogy

The Archive Lady: Removing Pencil Scribble

Has a little one scribbled on a precious family photo or document? Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, has the solution to removing pencil scribble safely!

Has a little one scribbled on a precious family photo or document? Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, has the solution to removing pencil scribble safely!

Patti from Connecticut asks: “I am writing to inquire about a photo which has pencil scribbles on it. I think my Dad got his hands on it when he was much younger. There is writing in ink underneath the pencil, and I would like to remove/erase the pencil marks, in order to make the ink writing clearer. I am considering a Prismacolor Magic Rub Eraser, with a light hand. Can you please advise me on this?”

The Archive Lady: Removing Pencil Scribble

Patti’s photograph

Patti asks a question that plagues many genealogists when it comes to taking care of their genealogical records. We wish that all of our records were pristine and without blemish, but the fact is we are going to face obstacles like the one Patti had before her.

I have seen many a document or photograph that has been written on by a youngster. Our children and grandchildren’s scribbles can be quite precious to us but they can really do some damage to our records. It is important that we, as caretakers of our family records, keep our records out of the reach of children so the scribbles do not happen. As you can see from the back of Patti’s photo there is an extensive amount of pencil scribbling. You can also see the ink writing underneath that Patti wanted to be able to read clearly. Thankfully the scribbling is only on the back and not on the front of the photograph.

The Archive Lady: Removing Pencil Scribble

Reverse side of Patti’s photograph with pencil scribble.

So how can this particular problem be rectified? Patti asked about a Prismacolor Magic Rub Eraser. It is important that the materials we use on our documents and photographs do no harm. This product is a suitable product to use for erasing pencil off of documents and photographs. This eraser is designed to cleanly erase delicate surfaces. This eraser has sharp corners to help clean small areas and it is latex free so it will not cause any smudging. The Prismacolor Magic Run Eraser does not leave any chemicals or residue behind on the surface of the document or photograph. It is mainly used by artists of various mediums and will remove pencil without removing the ink underneath on this particular photograph. The Prismacolor Magic Run Eraser can be purchased on Amazon or at any art supply store.

The Archive Lady: Removing Pencil Scribble

Prismacolor Magic Rub Eraser

Patti used the eraser on her photograph with good results. She took her time and methodically used the eraser to remove the pencil scribble. It erased the pencil without erasing the ink writing underneath. Patti can now clearly read the writing on her photograph.

The Archive Lady: Removing Pencil Scribble

Patti’s photograph without the pencil writing.

You can still see a hint of the pencil writing in the background, but there is a marked difference and now the ink writing can be clearly read. I was also pleased to see that Patti has protected her photograph by placing it in an archival photo sleeve.

Genealogists who have family records should take steps to care for and preserve their records like Patti has done. We have been entrusted with our family’s history and if we want future generations to enjoy that history, we need to do our part to preserve that history.

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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. 

©2019, copyright Melissa Barker. All rights Reserved.

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About the Author

Thomas MacEntee
Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee has been researching his family history for more than 40 years and is the creator of Abundant Genealogy, Genealogy Bargains, DNA Bargains, The Genealogy Do-Over and numerous other web-based genealogy and family history properties.