Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Basements, Attics, and Garages

We weren’t prepared for 20 boxes filled with thousands of items.  Probably nobody ever is.  Most houses aren’t particularly good at expanding to create space for storage.  And that’s why – when I arrived back home in New Jersey – the boxes went straight from the car to the basement.

Basements, attics, and garages are both natural places for storage and also, usually, the worst possible places for storage.  Our garage has no climate control and our attic has very little climate control.  Our basement has some climate control but water is a serious potential problem down there – it’s flooded twice in the past 12 years.  Putting collections in a basement like ours is simply a BAD IDEA.

The following should be considered when finding an area to store a family collection, especially one that is primarily paper and photos:

Temperature:  A consistent, moderately cool temperature is best.  Different items store better at different temperatures, so there’s no one-temp-fits-all spec.  Really hot or really cold are bad, as are temperature fluctuations.

Humidity:  There’s a reason the Dead Sea scrolls survived 2,000+ years in the desert.  Levels of humidity that are uncomfortable for you are even worse for paper.  Low humidity is best.

Light:  Exposure to natural light will fade the paper.  It's best to keep the items in a non-acidic folder or box.

Fully realizing that basement storage was a bad idea, I resolved to move ahead with the first round of inventory as quickly as possible.  Frankly, I had no other place available to store twenty boxes and so compromise was necessary.

An Open Invitation:  Please feel free to share in our Comments section about your experiences with preserving your family collections or to ask preservation questions about items in your care.

© 2010 Lee Price

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