Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, Offers Her Advice on Choosing the Correct Archival Sleeves
Bonnie in Virginia asks: “I have at least 100 letters that my Grandfather wrote on small paper with each letter being two to several pages long. I’ve also come across some wonderful old letters from the 1940’s from my uncle I’d like to archive once I get my Grandfather’s all done. My question is do you think the Avery, Hollinger Metal Edge or Keep Filing sleeves would be okay for this project? I’d just feel better knowing I’m making a good purchase on the advice of someone who really knows.”
Bonnie has asked a very important question that I get from genealogists and home archivist all the time. It can be a bit daunting to try to figure out which archival materials to purchase to preserve your family records and heirlooms. It seems that the more popular genealogy becomes; the more stores there are that offer archival materials to customers. The simple fact about archival materials is that they can be very expensive compared to the same materials that are not archival safe. It’s no wonder we can all get confused and not know which materials to purchase.
As an archivist I work with these materials on a daily basis. I order materials from many of the different archival stores available. And yes, I look for sales and I use coupon codes to bring down the price as much as possible. I have provided a list of archival stores below that I have worked with and continue to use in the archives today.
In all honesty, it really doesn’t matter where you purchase archival materials. What matters is that you get the materials that are truly archival. Just because the packaging says its acid free or archival doesn’t necessarily mean it is. There are three criteria that archivists look for when purchasing materials to preserve the records in their care.
First, the item should be listed as acid free. To be acid free means the item does not contain acid, having neutral or alkaline pH content. Second, the item should be lignin free. The Society of American Archivist Glossary of Terms defines the term lignin as “A complex polymer that makes cell walls in plants strong and rigid. Lignin left in papers made from wood pulp leads to chemical degradation” In essence, if lignin is present in the archival materials they will cause whatever is touching it to degrade and deteriorate. Lastly, the archival item should have passed the P.A.T. Again, the Society of American Archivist defines “P.A.T.” as the Photographic Activity Test, a standard procedure to check for potential chemical reactions between materials used to make enclosures and photographs stored in those enclosures.”
My advice to Bonnie was that she could purchase the Avery sleeves, Hollinger Metal Edge sleeves and even the Keep Filing sleeves because they are all made from polypropylene which is acid free, they are lignin free and they have Passed the P.A.T. So, I encouraged Bonnie to purchase the least expensive option of these three. These sleeves will do a wonderful job to protect the treasure trove of letters that she has for her Grandfather and Uncle.
I also encourage Bonnie and anyone reading this column to request a paper catalog from these archival stores. I find sitting down with these catalogs an easy way to find what I am looking for and make my order. Also, sign up to receive the vendor’s promotional emails so that you can benefit from the sales, coupon codes and promotions they offer. I can also tell you that once or twice a year many of these companies will offer free shipping on your entire order which helps to save money.
Preserving our family documents is important and using the proper materials is one way to do accomplish this goal.
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
- Archival Products
- Light Impressions
Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist Legacy QuickGuide and Webinar
o properly preserve old family letters and envelopes, please watch my Legacy Family Tree Webinar Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist or read my Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide on this subject:
Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist Webinar
Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist
Legacy Quick Guide
PDF version: http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1283
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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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