Melissa Barker, The Archive Lady, demonstrates the best ways to preserve an entire newspaper page as a family history resource
Patsy in Texas asks “What is the best way to preserve a full-page newspaper article? My family was featured in an article about new families in the area, with a picture. I have passed on the original picture (after I digitized it) and a copy to my sisters, but I’ve kept the newspaper page. It is from the late 1950’s & is already yellowed and fragile but still readable.”
Bound Newspapers, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Newspapers are my favorite record source to conduct genealogy research and 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 just like Patsy’s paper has done.
Examples of Newspapers, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Patsy has a newspaper story about her family. I suspect there are many genealogists that have newspapers, whole pages, or clippings in their genealogical records collections. Saving items from the newspaper is a favorite past time for many and some still do it today. 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 there are two options to preservation:
- Option #1: Photocopy each newspaper page onto acid free copy paper and then discard the newspaper. Many archives use this first option when dealing with newspapers in records collections. Acid free copy paper is more expensive than regular copy paper but copying the newspaper will preserve the information and also protect other documents in the collection. Large archival paper can be purchased from an archival store (see list below). Or if the newspaper page is too large to handle, take it to the local print shop and ask them to make a high quality copy onto acid free paper.
- Option #2: If Patsy would like to keep the original newspaper, that would be okay, but it would need to be encapsulated in archival plastic sleeves so it does not come in contact with any other documents and especially photographs. Each newspaper page needs to be placed in its own archival sleeve and then it can be placed with the other genealogical records. Large, newspaper size sleeves can also be purchased from archival stores.
No matter which option is used to preserve newspaper print it is always a good idea to scan and digitize each newspaper as Patsy has already done. Digitization, more and more, is becoming the first line of defense in most archives when it comes to information preservation. The information contained in the newspaper is important for researching our family history.
The last important step to records preservation of any kind is 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 percent.
Newspaper and the information they hold adds to our ancestor’s story and that information should be preserved!
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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