The Archive Lady: How to Preserve Newspaper Clippings

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The Archive Lady: How to Preserve Newspaper Clippings

Martha from Virginia asks: “My great aunt was a wonderful family historian and I inherited all of the genealogy research that she compiled over the years. One thing that she did was to clip obituaries, marriage announcements and other articles about the family from the local newspapers. I have noticed that the newsprint has deteriorated and has left an orange color on the documents they were in contact with. What is the best way to preserve these newspaper clippings so they won’t damage other documents, especially since there are hundreds of them?”

Example of Newspaper Clippings
Example of Newspaper Clippings

Newspaper Clippings: A Family History Treasure Trove

It sounds like Martha has a treasure trove of genealogy records from her great aunt. How wonderful that these records were passed down to the next generation to be saved and preserved!

Newspapers are my favorite record source to conduct genealogy research and to find information about my ancestors. I could sit for hours and hours reading the newspapers where my ancestors lived. The information found in newspapers is sometimes unique information not found in any other document. I have even been known to clip a story from time to time from the newspaper. Even with many newspapers going totally digital today and not printing newspapers anymore, there is still something about printer’s ink on a piece of paper that makes it worthy of keeping. Most newspapers printed since 1850 are on poor quality paper that was not made with preservation in mind. The paper used for newsprint is known as ground wood or mechanical wood pulp paper. This paper contains impurities and will become discolored, brittle and acidic over time.

Local Newspapers, Houston County, TN. Archives
Local Newspapers, Houston County, TN. Archives

Martha has inherited hundreds of newspaper clippings from her great aunt. I suspect there are many genealogists that have newspaper clippings in their genealogical records collections as well. Clipping items from the newspaper is a favorite past time for many and some still do it today.

How to Handle Newsprint

The newsprint from the aging newspapers can be very destructive to other documents if they come in contact with each other. When working with newspaper clippings there are two options to preservation:

  • Option #1: Photocopy each newspaper clipping onto acid free copy paper and then discard the newspaper clipping. Many archives use this first option when dealing with newspaper clippings in records collections. Acid free copy paper is more expensive than regular copy paper, but copying the newspaper clippings will preserve the information and also protect other documents in the collection.
  • Option #2: If Martha wants to keep the original newspaper clippings, that would be okay, but they would need to be encapsulated in archival plastic sleeves so that they do not come in contact with any other documents, especially photographs. Each newspaper clipping needs to be placed in its own archival plastic sleeve and then it can be placed with the other genealogical records.

Digitize Newspaper Clippings

No matter which option is used to preserve newspaper clippings, it is always a good idea to scan and digitize each newspaper clipping. More and more, digitization is becoming the first line of defense in most archives when it comes to information preservation. The information contained in the newspaper clippings is important for researching our family history. Making a digital copy of the clippings will insure the information contained in them will be saved even if the actual clipping itself is not.

Newspaper Clipping Scrapbook, Houston County, TN. Archives
Newspaper Clipping Scrapbook, Houston County, TN. Archives

Proper Storage Environment for News Clippings

The last important step to records preservation of any kind is to regulate the storage environment. Never store genealogical records in an attic or basement. Store records in a place where the temperature can be kept at a constant measurement. Temperatures should be kept at a steady 65° F and humidity levels at a constant 35%.

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Newspaper clippings and the information they hold adds to our ancestor’s story and that information should be preserved.

Archival Material Websites

Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. Archival tissue paper and boxes 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.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars and Quick Guides

Scrapbooks! Do you want to know how to find scrapbooks about your ancestors or do you have scrapbooks that you own and would like to know how to preserve them? Get my latest Legacy Family Tree Webinar and QuickGuide:

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine QuickGuide on Amazon

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist’s Gold Mine Legacy Quick Guide 

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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. 

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One Response

  1. Howland Davis

    25 September 2017 6:41 pm

    I have a whole bunch of clippings about ship arrivals and departures. Unfortunately the dates were not included so I have no way to figure out what happened when.

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