MayDay Quick Tips

Some of the tips below may not be advisable, applicable, or feasible for your collection or institution. Please consult a conservator about the relative value of the measures you choose to undertake.

In General

"The best protection for your books, papers, photographs, and prints is a cool, dry, stable environment, e.g., moderate temperature and relative humidity with relatively little fluctuation, clean air and good air circulation, no natural or fluorescent light, and good housekeeping.” (NEDCC, Preserving Family Collections,

"Separate collections that need special conditions,” so “use available spaces the best way….” “Can you modify your use of space to suit the collections better? Are some spaces more stable than others? Do some materials in your collections (like parchment or vellum) need different conditions from others? Can these be segregated into groups with similar needs? This may reduce the need for new or improved conservation environments.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 2.6, Low Cost/No Cost Improvements in Climate Control,


“Block radiant heat from radiators: If you can't move collections well away from radiators in storage or exhibit spaces, cover wallboard with reflective foil and position this barrier between radiators and collections to protect objects from 'line-of-sight' heat transmission.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 2.6, Low Cost/No Cost Improvements in Climate Control,

"Heat causes damage. Don’t hang valuable photos, documents, or artworks over radiators, heating ducts, heat-producing appliances, or fireplaces. Books and boxed documents or photographs with long-term value should also be shelved away from heat sources.” (NEDCC, Preserving Family Collections,


“Letters, clippings, and other documents should be stored unfolded, because folding and unfolding breaks paper along the fold lines. Storing documents in folders rather than envelopes is recommended, because envelopes can cause damage as items are removed and replaced.” (NEDCC, Preserving Family Collections,


“To preserve wedding pictures (or photos of any event) as long as possible, be sure the photographer takes a roll of black-and-white film. Although improvements in technology have extended the life of color prints and negatives, color materials still do not last as long as traditional black and white photographs and negatives.” (NEDCC, Preserving Family Collections,

“In general, films (plastic-based materials) appear to be more stable than prints (paper-based materials); therefore, prints should be salvaged first. Important exceptions include deteriorated nitrate and safety films, which are extremely susceptible to water damage....”

"...Photographs made by the following processes should be salvaged first: ambrotypes, tintypes, collodion wet plate negatives, gelatin dry plate negatives, lantern slides, deteriorated nitrate or safety film, autochromes, carbon prints, woodburytypes, deteriorated or unhardened gelatin prints, and color materials. Photographs made by many of these processes will not survive immersion...."

"...Photographs that are more stable in water include: daguerreotypes, salted paper prints, albumen prints, collodion prints, platinum prints, and cyanotypes." (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.7,

Air Drying

“Keep the air around the drying materials moving at all times. Fans will speed up the drying process and minimize the risk of mold growth.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.7,

“Secure a clean, dry environment where the temperature and humidity are as low as possible. The temperature must be below 70 degrees F. and the humidity below 50%, or mold will probably develop and distortion will be extreme.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

“Keep the air moving at all times using fans in the drying area. This will accelerate the drying process and discourage the growth of mold. If materials are dried outside, remember that prolonged exposure to direct sunlight may fade inks and accelerate the aging of paper. Be aware that breezes can blow away single records. Train fans into the air and away from the drying records.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

“Single leaves can be laid out on tables, floors, and other flat surfaces, protected if necessary by paper towels or clean, unprinted newsprint, or clotheslines may be strung close together and records laid across them for drying.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

“If records are printed on coated paper, they must be separated from one another to prevent them from sticking. This is a tedious process that requires skill and patience." To practice: "Place a piece of polyester film on the stack of records. Rub it gently down on the top sheet. Then slowly lift the film while peeling off the top sheet. Hang the polyester film up to dry on a clothesline using closepins. As the document dries, it will separate from the surface of the film, so it must be monitored carefully. Before it falls, remove it and allow it to finish drying on a flat surface.”(NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

“Dried records will always occupy more space than ones that have never been water damaged.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

Wet Books

“When books are dry but still cool to the touch, they should be closed, laid flat on a table or other horizontal surface, gently formed into the normal shape, with convex spine and concave front edge (if that was their original shape), and held in place with a light weight. Do not stack drying books on top of each other. In no case should books be returned to the shelves until thoroughly dry; otherwise mold may develop, particularly along the gutter margin.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

"If the edges of the book are only slightly wet, the book may be stood on end and fanned open slightly in the path of a flow of air (as from a fan). To minimize distortion of the edges, lay volumes flat under light pressure just before drying is complete. Paper or cloth-covered bricks work well for weights.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.6,

Air Drying Photographs

“Separate photographs from their enclosures, frames, and from each other. If they are stuck together or adhered to glass, set them aside for freezing and consultation with a conservator.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.7,

"Allow excess water to drain off the photographs. Spread the photographs out to dry, face up, laying them flat on an absorbent material such as blotters, unprinted newsprint, paper towels, or a clean cloth.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.7,

"Negatives should be dried vertically. They can be hung on a line with plastic clips placed at the edges.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.7,

"Photographs may curl during drying. They can be flattened later.” (NEDCC, Preservation Leaflets, 3.7,

Preserve Your History of the 2008 Election and Obama Inauguration

Celebrate the American Record by preserving your memorabilia from the 2008 presidential campaign, election, and inauguration. The Society of American Archivists offers tips on the proper care and management of your photographs, newspapers, campaign buttons, event tickets, and other historic keepsakes. Click here for details!


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Last updated: April 10, 2012

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