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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Preserving Newspapers from Mavis W.

Q. I like to save newspapers which feature special events or people of interest.  Do you know what would be the best kind of container to preserve these for as long as possible and whether such a container might be the size of a newspaper?  Do you know whether Rubbermaid containers are made of a material which would not harm newspapers if used for long term storage?

A. Newspaper pulp is very acidic and so ages rather rapidly.  Light accelerates this process.  As far as storage goes, there's a wide range of what is possible, depending upon how special the paper is to you.
I recommend Rubbermaid® or Sterilite® (or similar containers with the recycling code '5' or 'PP').  The material is polypropylene and is completely inert and thus ideally suited for safely storing all manner of things.  We have a letter on file from Rubbermaid™ attesting to the absolute safety of all of their products for storage. Do not make the boxes airtight and store them in a dark, temperate area of your home. Check periodically to be sure all is well. A shelf on an interior closet is an ideal location (to avoid temperature and humidity swings) or under a bed in an unused (but climate-controlled) bedroom, with a dust skirt to block light.

Polypropylene boxes are used extensively for conservation.  They are in my opinion, superior to expensive archival board boxes, as they offer greater protection from water damage (burst pipe, leaking roof, weather disaster) and greater resistance to pests.  They also stack easily.

The underbed boxes serve very well for newspapers, as they have enough room for either 2 stacks of folded papers or 1 of unfolded. 

What further methods you use should be determined by how precious the papers are to you.  You may store whole papers still folded (not the most valuable to you) and wrapped in nonbuffered archival tissue. The tissue acts both as protection against environmental acids and as a moisture buffer.  It also further shields the papers from light.  Do not use buffered tissue, as most colored inks used by newspapers today are soy-based.  The chemical buffering agent can interact with some of these dyes and alter the colors.

If the articles are very special to you, then you should store them flat or as individual sheets or articles.  Line the box with tissue and then place a sheet of tissue between each as they go in, finishing with a final layer of tissue.

Newspaper is going to yellow and become brittle eventually, so if the articles are historically or personally very significant, you'll want to go a bit further.  First, copy the article onto white ink-jet paper.  Almost all are acid-free, but look for 'archival' on the label to be sure there are also no lignins present or finishes of any kind.  Store the copies separately and you will have a record if the originals decay too much or are in some other way damaged or lost. If you have a scanner, also save a scan of the original(s).

For items that are already significantly decayed or very fragile when you copy them, you can try this trick to stabilize the original (after copying and/or scanning):

Stir 2 TBSP of Milk of Magnesia into a bottle of seltzer, club soda or distilled water, seltzer or club soda. Allow to sit until thoroghly blended. Pour some of the solution in a glass baking pan. Place the article on a sheet of plain white paper (see above) and gently lower into the solution.  After a few minutes, use the underlying paper to gently lift the newsprint out of the solution.  Allow to air dry and when thoroughly dry, sandwich between 2 fresh sheets of paper and press under a heavy volume for a few hours. You can also dry the item by placing it carefully between 2 thick layers of white paper towels and weighting. The alkaline solution will neutralize the acids in the paper.  This method may also be used to stabilize new articles, which is especially useful when scrapbooking.  Be sure to have a back-up copy of the article, especially if it has any color, as the alkalinity may change the colors as noted above.
Archival sleeves of the type used in scrapbooks may also be used for individual articles.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Preventing 'bleeding' of signed baseballs from David J.

Q. Try this one!

I have a unique collection.  I have autographed baseballs...not of sports
heroes, but of MY heroes.  My grandfather, my dad, an uncle, and some others.  The signatures on a couple of balls is NOT fading so much as"bleeding."  The ink from the pens is sort of bleeding into itself.  Is there a spray or anything that I could use to retard this process? A spray lacquer?  Any ideas?
Thanks for any help you can give me!

A. This was a tough one and I think your collection is terrific - what a great idea for young families!

After researching this for a bit, I have settled on an answer found at Sweet Spot Online Charles Kaufman writes on the site:

"There is a way to protect your collection from UV light. Krylon. Crystal Clear Krylon (Product 1305) is no invitation to take your collection to the beach, but its chemistry is touted to protect autographs from fading as well as anything else. This product is used by graphic artists and photographers who want to protect grahite and other artwork. Experts recommend a light spray to protect the ball and to preserve the natural appearance of the autographed surface. Place the item on the cap of the can and hold the can about 14 inches away; spray lightly, maybe two seconds. Just a quick shot is all that's needed. Consider two more coats, but users should use their own judgment. Warning, some people challenge the use of Krylon on signed baseballs, arguing that any coating will act the same as lacquer of old."

The Krylon would also stop the bleeding by sealing as you suggested in your question.  So you'll be stopping the bleeding and protecting from fading at the same time.

When I contacted him for permission to publish he added:
"Collectors should NOT attempt to "repair" a signed item by writing over the signature. It's a slightly different, but similar, issue."

Good to know!

Hope this helps, David
and thank you for the unique question, Debra

Preserving 19th Century Leather Bound Books from Dan W.

Q. I have several 19th century leather bound books which I would like to preserve as best as possible, what would you suggest?

A.You may want to consult with a local conservator, AIC has a finder.

In general, it is important that the books be kept free of dust, insects and mold spores and that they be kept in a temperate area with relatively stable humidity in the mid-range.  Aim for temperatures comfortable for you and humidity in the 40 to 60% range.  Humidity above that encourages mold. Try to shelve on an interior wall, if possible. This avoids temperature swings possible along outside walls, which both stresses the leather, boards and paper and can cause condensation.

Periodic gentle vacuuming (cover the end of the tube with nylon) will accomplish the first.  (If you  know you are sensitive to mold, you of course will use a vac with HEPA filtration or seek the services of a professional conservator.) Soft-bristle brushes also work well. After vacuuming, dust regularly.  Use Renaissance Wax or a natural vulcanized rubber sponge for cleaning.  The sponge is wonderful for pages edges and inner boards. Do not be alarmed if the color lightens appreciably as years are cleaned away!  Use a conditioner to feed the leather.  When cleaning and treating be especially careful of gold leaf and other ornamentation.  Cover pages with waxed paper or foil to protect them when working with the leather care materials.

Wooden bookshelves should either be sealed with an inert sealant or there should be a buffer layer of glass or other inert material beneath and behind the books.  This will protect the books from the oils naturally present in the wood and and from polishes and wood treatments. Large and moderate-sized books should always be stored vertically with books of similar height for support and just a bit of ease for air circulation.  Very small or thin books or pamplets may be shelved horizontally.

When storing or moving, use only nonbuffered packing materials.  Buffered materials can interact with some leather dyes, causing a reaction that could alter color in some areas.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Dan G. on storing smelly game jerseys

Q. I have a collection of smelly Game Worn Flannels with the original dirt, sweat, tobacco, blood etc.
 They don't get washed ever.  I have them in Sterilite storage containers lined with your tissue and (since I am getting married soon) am wondering if I should put some of your lavender in with them.

Thanks for all the previous replies. I guess my final question (hopefully for your sanity) is do you
think in this particular game worn smelly scenario the lavender is good and would definitely
dissipate when aired or should I go the baking soda route (although I would hate for
an open box to fall over in the storage container)?  Don't want lavender scent to diminish their value.

A. Does this mean you have the DNA of famous athletes? Wow.  I do think I remember noticing that Joe Theisman's final game jersey was displayed (Smithsonian?) as-'yucky.'-is.  Wonder if the curators went a few rounds on that one!?

To answer the question, lavender is a very volatile oil and so dissipates fairly quickly into the air.  In your boxes, it cannot go anywhere (or only do so slowly.)  Once in the open it will start to fade.

A few days airing should be enough to accomplish this to a reasonable degree. You could speed it up, if needed, by placing a uniform in a clean pillow case and putting it in the dryer on 'air only', no heat.  That might disturb the trophy stains, though. A bit of time hung to air would accomplish the same thing.

Since you are storing these in your house, and you are getting married, yes, I do definitely think the lavender is a good idea. Your getting married, is not, however, the main reason.

With all of those organic substances on the fabric, you need to discourage pests.  Lavender very effectively repels clothes moths and carpet beetles, which the baking soda alone would not accomplish.  I understand why they need to remain 'as is', but generally, storing dirty clothing is the opposite of a Martha 'good thing.'  The rigid polypropylene of the containers will at least discourage pests of the four-footed kind, but do check on the contents often.  Be sure not to make the containers airtight and to store them in climate-controlled areas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to store crepe and satin shoes with rhinestones from Kim P.

Q. I have found a pair of shoes that I would like to purchase for my wedding in 2 years.
How would I store them to prevent changes in the color and material.  They are white crepe and satin with a rhinestone embellishment.
Your help would be most valuable.

A. They sound gorgeous!

Stuff and wrap them with our archival wrapping tissue to help prevent the metal settings for the rhinestones from tarnishing and staining the satin.  If it is possible to remove the metal and rhinestone pieces and replace them later that would be best, but if you cannot then try to isolate them with strips of the tissue.  Use a shoe box made of polypropylene (Rubbermaid®-type in white). It's an inert material, not airtight and will protect well.

Be absolutely certain to store at room temperature and away from outside walls.  This will lessen the likelihood of condensation causing moisture damage or corrosion.  Use desiccant packs if you live in a very humid area.

Please let me know if I can answer any further questions.

Best Regards - and Best Wishes, too!

Question about storing an antique wedding gown from Jan H.

Q. I have my Mom's wedding gown which has been stored in her cedar chest for years.  It is made of lace with a satin petticoat, and has about ten small white pearl type buttons down the back.  It's floor length. It has yellowed with age.  She died recently, but my parent's wedding anniversary would've been 64 years this month, so that is the age of the gown. Now that I have it--I would like to preserve it--though I realize that damage has already been done.

It needs to be cleaned (and although the (reputable) dry cleaner cannot guarantee its condition, I have decided to go ahead with the cleaning.  My question is--what next?  Should I purchase your preservation pack or individual items?  (Do not have any wedding invitations or newspaper announcements.)

I have printed out the instructions from your website--and can easily pick up a Rubbermaid container--so that won't be a problem.

Thanks for your help with this--your website is a great source of information--you must love what you do--helping to preserve a bit of history!

A.Thanks, Jan - I do love what I do - so much that I actually enjoy researching and answering questions.

First let me note that cedar chests should always be lined with triple washed and rinsed muslin or acid free tissue paper.  The aromatic oils in cedar are highly acidic and will cause yellowing and staining when they contact textiles directly.  A buffering layer is essential.

If you are storing just the gown - the tissue alone will suffice. The extras in the kit are nice (I especially like the very fragrant lavender and the Eucalan Lavender Wash!) but the tissue alone offers tremendous benefits in terms of neutralizing environmental acids and acting as a humidity and temperature buffer.

One package of 5 folds of 10 sheets should be enough - and will allow you enough for lightly stuffing the sleeves and bodice.

Please let me know if you have any further questions at all.

Storing hand-smocked clothing for grandchildren from Barbara S.

Q. I have a large number of hand-smocked clothing from 9 grandchildren.  I am interested in packing a box for each one, in hopes their own children may someday wear them.  Will the Rubbermaid or Sterite boxes with tissue paper between be all I need, or should the entire contents of each one be covered in muslin?  I live in Texas, but plan to keep them in the house.

A.You'll be fine with just tissue and Baby Clothes Preservation posted on my site might be useful. You can use muslin as a cover, but be sure to triple-wash and rinse first to be sure all fabric finishes are removed. You should check periodically just to be sure everything is ok and storing in your home is exactly the right thing to do.  Please let me know if you have any further questions at all.
Good for you, by the way - those are lucky grandchildren!

Removing Label Residue from Antique Table Linens from Julie W.

Q.You were kind enough to give me guidance on storage of a 100% linen
tablecloth I inherited from my grandfather. I still need to purchase the
archival tissue paper and plan to do so from your website. However, I
just examined the tablecloth and napkins and have another question. The
napkins were in their original packaging, including a cardboard insert
(yikes). On each napkin is a stuck on label proclaiming the content and
retailer. These labels do not easily peel off so I was wondering what
your advice might be concerning their removal. I was going to try
soaking them in Woolite but thought I'd check with you first in case
there is a better method or product to use.
Thank you for your advice. Once I hear from you I'll know if I need to
add to my order.

A. From the Links page of my site you will see that the antique linens expert
I refer my clients to for laundering questions is Cynthia and her very informative website.
I do know that you should always remove adhesive residue before laundering. Wetting
generally worsens things.  Commercial products such as Goo Gone seem to work better than anything else, but do visit Cynthia's website first.  She has lovely things for sale, too!

Storing Patricia Breen ornaments from Gail H.

Q. I have several hundred Patricia Breen ornaments.  They are glass ornaments covered in a fine glitter.  What do you recommend for a storage solution?  Your small bags with tissue? Many of them are over $100.00 each so I am concerned with keeping them nice.  Some of the garlands that use small siver and gold balls are tarnishing and I am worried.  Many thanks for your time.

 A.Our tissue will prevent tarnishing (it passes the TAPPI T444 Silver Tarnish Test and the P.A.T.) and you can use it in conjunction with the sleeves. Remove tarnish first with whatever gentle method you prefer. Would perhaps be easier to use the tissue in ornament storage boxes, or Rubbermaid or Sterilite boxes. If humidity is high where you live - you might also want to consider desiccant. The single most important storage variable is location; it's always best to keep precious items in climate-controlled areas of the home.

Buffered vs. Nonbuffered: Storing vintage beaded purses with silk linings from Denease A.

Q. I am interested in purchasing acid free tissue.  I collect vintage beaded purses with silk linings and other vintage items.  I looked on your web site and noticed that acid free tissue comes buffered and nonbuffered.  Which one should I use?

A. For most vintage items, and particularly where silk, wool, fur, leather or feathers is a component, you should use only nonbuffered tissue.  This will keep the natural protective acid mantle of the organic materials intact, and will not cause any color shift if sensitive organic dyes are present. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From Lisa W. Concerning Moths and Cashmere

This after ordering our Triple Sweater and Woolens Care Kit:
Do you think when I get home from work tonight it would help to shake the rest of my cashmere collection and then put lavender on the shelf while I wait for your emergency kit to arrive?



Lavender is closely related to Lavendin - which has been shown to be more repellent than moth balls to moths.

What you should do right away, since it's the larva the moths lay that cause damage, is seal your sweaters in freezer bags and place in the freezer - the colder the better.  If any larva are present the cold will kill them.

Check the internet for how long to leave them - recommendations vary - but leave them at least until the kits arrive - then you can take your time treating each to the Eucalan.

Go ahead and place some lavender in your storage container or so it can start permeating to keep the little beasties away!

Question From Hena S. about Storing Fine Jewelry

Since space is limited in a safety-deposit box, I need your advice on how to store fine jewelry. I don't have space for all the soft jewel boxes that pieces were purchased in, so have stored some in small plastic zip bags, some mixed together in a paper box lined at the bottom with cotton. Should I be wrapping each piece in tissue paper? What do you recommend?

and parts of my reply:

The problem with commercial zipper bags is that they contain Saran, which can sometimes interact with precious metals, pearls, opals and other 'soft' stones.

We have 3X5 and 4X6 inch zip bags made of archival film and also 5X7 and 9X12 archival envelopes (clear) with a reusable zip strip.  If you can give me an idea of how many you might need, I can quote you a price.  If you would like an assortment of all 4 sizes, perhaps 10 each, I can do that for $15.

The tissue is good because it acts not only as an acid barrier, it also inhibits tarnish and is a moisture buffer.

What I recommend is wrapping in tissue and then placing in the zip bag or envelope with a desiccant pack.  Alternatively, you could use just one of the 50 gram regenerable packs in the safety-deposit box to cover all of the items stored.  We have both items on the website:

If you wrap in tissue, put a small note in the bag/envelope citing what the contents are so that you can find what you need without unwrapping each.

If would like the assortment of archival bags, just tell us so in the dialog box at checkout and we'll add $15 to the order and send you a new confirmation.  The shipping will remain the same.

Will be happy to answer any further questions you might have.

Oh! Donate the jewelry boxes to a charity that you support - I imagine girls will love to have them! Some of them are so pretty.

Question From Carol E. About Storing Collectibles

Was very impressed with the info on your website and with customer reviews.  Most likely I will order very soon when I decide what I will need for storage of my collectibles.  My most important question re:  storage is what type of box should I store "unboxed as well as boxed collectibles?"  Most of my collectibles are holiday items from the 20's through the early 60's.  I am somewhat perplexed as to the type of storage box I should use.  If plastic...what type of plastic is acid free or acceptable to us. Or can I use cardboard?  Can you help me with this?  Thank you so much.

And the main points of my reply:

Good Morning, Carol:

Your question is a good one and there is a lot of misinformation out there.  Some say never use plastic and some say all cardboard is acidic.  Neither is true.

There are harmful plastics and there are safe plastics and some cardboard is treated with buffering agents and so is acid-free.

Archival board is very expensive and I have never felt it offers the protection an inert plastic does.  Plastic offers much better protection against water damage (say in the event of a burst pipe or leaking roof) and better resistance to pests.

Conservators and curators widely use polypropylene boxes for storage.  The material is completely inert and so is safe for all materials.  As long as the box is not made airtight there is enough breathability when stored in climate-controlled areas of the home.  Look for the recycling code '5' or the letter 'PP'.  Rubbermaid and Sterilite's white translucent boxes are commercial examples that are readily available.

Quite often ornaments and collectibles come in their own boxes.  Since these offer a custom fit and protection, I think it's fine to leave them in the boxes they came in and wrap those in archival tissue and then store them all in the aforementioned outer boxes.

Some owners of very collectible and/or precious items like to store the boxes and the ornaments separately lest the box material affect the contents.  Flocked lining, for example, might deteriorate and the small bits get stuck to glitter or snow or metalwork.  You can use your discretion there.

The tissue acts as an environmental buffer, protecting the contents from environmental acids and helping maintaining stable humidity levels.  It is also non-tarnishing.  If you have any baked ornaments - whether clay or bread or cookie dough, those should be in an archival sleeve or small glass or polypropylene box (some kitchen storage containers will work - look on the bottom for the code) with a desiccant pack so that they stay dry.