Preserving Newspaper Mementos: Tips For Safe Storage

Preserving Newspaper Mementos

Newspaper boxes protect the Newseum’s collection of historic periodicals. (Newseum)

When historic events occur, readers instinctively want to preserve the memories. Newspapers rush to print extra editions to keep up with the demand. The challenge for new collectors is to guarantee a long shelf life for their mementos.

The Newseum’s curatorial department preserves more than 35,000 historic newspapers and periodicals in its collection — some dating back to 1526 — and knows a thing or two about how to make sure these newspapers are protected for years to come. Here are answers to the frequently asked questions our curators received in the aftermath of the historic 2008 Election Day.

How do I make sure my newspaper stays in good condition?

The most important safety tip is to make sure the newspapers are not exposed to light. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible. Avoid handling the newspaper as much as possible.

Will plastic wrap protect my newspaper?

No, not home or kitchen wrap. We recommend three ways to preserve your newspaper.

  • Store the newspaper in an acid-free “buffered” archival folder — also called a map/print folder because of its size. Today’s newspapers contain acidic wood pulp; buffering agents help slow their deterioration. Buy an archival folder large enough to store the newspaper unfolded and flat. Storing newspapers folded will result in eventual separation at the fold due to stress.
  • Place the newspaper in Melinex — a clear, stiff, inert polyester that acts as a support for paper materials. We suggest Melinex that is sealed on one long side. For extra protection, put the Melinex-sealed newspaper in an archival folder. Some suppliers offer archival folders with a Melinex cover already inside.
  • Put the newspaper in coated or uncoated acid-free newspaper boxes, preferably buffered, and large enough to store the newspaper flat. Coated boxes are more expensive, since they have a water-resistant finish.

Where can I buy Melinex, archival folders or newspaper boxes?

These products are not readily available in stores and can be purchased online through archival suppliers such as Gaylord Brothers, Light Impressions, Archival Methods, and Hollinger/Metal Edge. The products are expensive, but they will ensure that your newspaper is protected for a very long time.

Where should I store my newspaper?

The storage environment for newspapers should be moderate, without extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Closet shelves are a good home option for storing newspapers. Attics and basements are less than ideal spaces for archival materials because of temperature and humidity variations.

Can I keep the newspaper with other collectibles?

Do not store the unprotected newspaper with or next to other acidic materials such as wood, cardboard, notebook paper, etc.

Is it OK to frame the newspaper for hanging?

Framing is OK, but it’s important to keep newspapers away from sunlight, moisture and insects. Use conservation quality glass or acrylic that filters out harmful UV light. Even if you use UV-filtered glass, do not place the framed newspaper in a sunny area. Make sure that the matting or backing is 100 percent cotton fiber — cotton rag matboard — and preferably buffered. Never place the newspaper on a cardboard backing. This will result in rapid deterioration. Most custom frame shops will have these materials available, so you may not have to buy them online.

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