Dear Melissa LeMaster Barker, The Archive Lady

Got some questions about filing photos and unusual family papers in acid-free metal edge Hollinger boxes.

  • I have the pencil you recommend.
  • I have acid-free archival file folders.
  • Do I need acid free tissue paper?
Hollinger document storage box

IMAGE: Courtesy Hollinger Metal Edge flip top document storage case.

1. With my father’s 1918 baby book, should I insert acid-free tissue paper between each page before placing in the file folder?

2. When an old photo has a cover, should it be stored with the cover open to view the image? It is flatter that way.

3. Should these rare late 19th and early 20th century photos be inserted in those archival photo sleeves or will the acid-free file folder suffice? Note I plan to store late 20th century photos in sleeves in photo filing boxes.

4. Is there a naming/numbering protocol for labeling each folder that’s generally accepted by archivists?

5. Is there some type of inventory log I should create for each Hollinger box? This could possibly be more descriptive than the hand written label on each file folder tab.

6. Years ago I made a frame for an old family photo, but isn’t it best to remove the old photo from the frame and store it in a file folder in a Hollinger box? Right now the photo is out of direct sunlight on a darkened corner of a climate controlled bedroom.

7. You have taught me to remove all staples and paper clips before storing a document. Should something be inserted between pages of a particularly fragile multi-page document? What about encapsulation of particularly thin paper or messy carbon copy tissue paper?

8. The important middle pages of a heavy 1890s family bible are tearing apart down the center. How should I prevent further damage if someone wishes to view and turn the pages? I know Scotch tape is out.

8. Is there some sort of finding aid I should create, summarizing what’s in each box in this family archive? There will be about 6 vertical and three horizontal Hollinger boxes, 2 custom bible boxes and several photo filing boxes when I’m done.

9. Do you have a brand of printer paper you’d recommend for printing my inventories and finding aids? I’d hate to go to all this trouble only to put high acid, easily degradable paper into my beautifully preserved collection. Also, will laser printed info pages last longer than inkjet?

10. Is there an accepted protocol for labeling the spines of my Hollinger boxes?

As you can see, I’m getting serious about archiving precious family items in my collection. Maybe these 10 questions would make good fodder for 10 blog posts?

Thank you for all the advice and training you’ve given us about preservation and using archives.

If my descendants don’t want to keep this family archive, I’d like it to be readily processed into a regional archive collection with minimal fuss for the accession archivist.

(That’s a whole lotta archiving going on.) 🤗