The Archive Lady shows you how to build a Home Archivist’s Tool Kit to preserve and protect your cherished family history items!
Jason from California asks: “I am really getting serious about preserving my family records. I have been reading your blog and watching your webinars and you talk about a home archivist’s tool kit. Can you tell me what you suggest should be in a home archivist’s tool kit?”
Jason’s question is one I get all the time, especially when I give my talk about genealogists being home archivists. If you think about it, genealogists do some of the same things professional archivists do. Things like, collect old records, responsible for preserving these records for the next generation and documenting the stories these records tell. Having the right tools to preserve genealogical records is important, not only in an archive setting but at your home archives.
Loose Records to be preserved, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
October is American Archives Month and a great time to be talking about archives and the home archivist’s tool kit. I want you to know that as genealogists with original records, photographs, and artifacts, You Are the Home Archivist! You are the keeper of the family history and I applaud every one of you that has taken on this responsibility. I am going to give you a list of tools that you as a genealogist and home archivist should purchase and have on hand in your “Home Archivist Toolbox”, so you are ready to preserve your genealogical records, photographs, and artifacts.
First, you will need a toolbox! Yep, I recommend an actual toolbox to keep all your materials, so they are all in one place and don’t get lost. I have a toolbox just like this one that I use in the Houston County, TN. Archive to put all my archival tools in so I can access them when I am working on records preservation.
The first item to put in your toolbox are soft #2 pencils. In the archives, we never use ball point pens on documents or photographs. We always use soft #2 pencils to identify photographs and to source documents. If you find that you have a document or photograph that pencil will not write on, you can use a pen called an Identi-Pen. It is preferred that pencil is used all the time but there are some cases where pencil will not show up and this Identi-Pen can be used.
Next, you should obtain some soft bristle brushes. These will be used to brush off dust, dirt and other specs of grime that could be inside of books, scrapbooks and on your documents. I recommend getting make-up brushes, they are cheap and work very well.
Next, every home archivist’s tool kit should have a micro spatula! This tool is used for many jobs in an archive like removing staples. I consider this an essential tool for the home archivist:
Example of a micro spatula
Gloves! The next item to put in your tool kit are gloves. You can get white cotton gloves or nitrile gloves. These should be used for handling photographs since the dirt and oils on your hands can damage photographs. However, there is no need to use gloves when handling documents. Nice clean hands will do the trick!
Another must have for the tool kit is a dry-cleaning sponge. This sponge cleans dirty and/or soot covered documents. This sponge can also remove many stains and dirty spots on documents. CAUTION: do not use on pencil writing! This sponge will erase the pencil writing.
Example of a Dry-Cleaning Sponge
And lastly, document repair tape. In the archives, we don’t use regular cellophane tape on anything. But there is a particular type of repair tape that is acceptable if used sparingly. If you have small tears or rips in your documents, this repair tape is perfectly fine to use. Just be sure to place the tape on the back of the document where there is no writing.
You can purchase all these tools at any online archival store or at Amazon.
And if you would like to see me in an online presentation discussing the Home Archivist’s Tool Kit, watch my guest appearance on Dear Myrtle’s Wacky Wednesday hangout. It is free to watch and there is much more information talked about on each item covered in this blog post: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAq3KlTVSKY
So, if you are like Jason and getting serious about preserving your family records, be sure to make yourself a Home Archivist’s Tool Kit!
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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
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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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