Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, offers tips on how to preserve oversized documents including diplomas
Amanda from New York asks: “What’s the best way to store a high school/college diploma?”
High School Diploma, Hepler High School, State of Kansas, 1898
Amanda asks a question that I suspect many genealogists wrestle with when it comes to oversized documents. Many times, these are large certificates like a high school diploma, a teacher’s certificate, maps, or land grant documents. In Amanda’s case, she has high school/college diplomas in her family records collection. If you are fortunate enough to have your ancestors’ diplomas, they can be larger than a regular piece of paper and they are usually on some sort of card stock or specialty paper that needs to be encapsulated and protected.
John J. Cushing College Diploma, Homeopathic Medical College, 1849
My advice to Amanda and to anyone who has oversized documents is to purchase archival L-sleeves from any of the online archival materials stores (see list below). These L-sleeves are perfect for oversized documents and photographs and come in large sizes to accommodate just about any oversized document. These sleeves are acid free, lignin free and have passed the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test). I also suggest Amanda should purchase a flat archival box to house the deeds once they have been encapsulated in the L-sleeves. These archival boxes can also be purchased at any of the online archival materials stores. These boxes are acid free, lignin free and have passed the P.A.T. and will allow Amanda to place the documents flat in the box. Several documents or photographs can be stored in one box if each is in a separate L-sleeve. Once this is completed, the box just needs to be stored in a cool, dark, and dry storage place.
I always encourage genealogist to request a FREE catalog from online archival products stores. All the vendors have paper catalogs that they will send to your postal mailbox for FREE. I like to shop online just as much as the next person but even I have found that sitting down with a paper catalog from an archival store is much easier to find what I need. You may need to register with the archival store website, but it is FREE. Once you have registered, you can request your paper catalog and get started shopping! Also, the companies will send you emails with sales and percentage off coupon codes. This comes in very handy since archival materials can be quite pricey. Another great benefit is that a couple times a year, these stores will offer free shipping on all orders. This is when most archives usually place their large orders because they know they will get free shipping.
Gaylord Archival Materials
Preserving our genealogical records doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. Working with oversized documents such as Amanda’s high school/college diplomas just takes getting the right archival materials and knowing the best practices for storage. With the right archival materials anyone can preserve their precious family records.
If you have a question for The Archive Lady, please send them via email and I could use your archival question in an upcoming edition of The Archive Lady column. Melissa Barker, a.k.a. The Archive Lady E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Online Archival Supply Stores
- Gaylord Archival
- Hollinger Metal Edge
- University Products
- Light Impressions
- Archival Methods
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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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