Preserving Newspapers

When we live through historic events people often save their newspapers to remember the day. However, folding a newspaper up and leaving it in your attic will ultimately result in dissapointment as the paper degrades. The University Archives have provided some tips on caring for your newspaper collection.


Newspaper is inherently not a permanent medium. Because of its transient nature, newspaper is printed on very cheap, but very acidic paper which contains a lot of wood impurities. These factors make storing and preserving newspaper very difficult, but there are a few basic steps one can take to increase the lifespan of their treasured newspapers.

Environment

Environmental factors such as light, temperature, and humidity play a key role in the life span of newspaper. Newspapers should be stored in a dark stable environment where the temperature is on average between 60-70 degrees and has no more than 40-50 percent relative humidity. So rather than storing newspapers in damp basements or hot attics, they should be stored in the central part of the house.

Storage

The method of storing newspaper will also affect its life span. Instead of storing it in its original condition of being folded in half, it should lay flat. Because the acidity in the newspaper will transfer and stain all paper items that it comes into contact with, the newspaper should be stored in an acid free container, such as an archival box. If the newspaper is placed in a tight fitting plastic container, such as a plastic bag or encapsulated in a plastic sleeve or envelope, the breakdown of the acid in the paper will be sped up and the newspaper will disintegrate more quickly.

Extra Steps

Extra steps can be taken involving simple preservation tools such as de-acidification spray and wrapping the newspaper in acid-free tissue paper before placing it in an acid free box to further insulate it against environmental factors while making sure the acid does not leak onto surrounding material. There is no way to permanently save newspaper, but de-acidification will slow the rate of deterioration and can extend the life of the newspaper three to five times as long as it would have survived without de-acidification. De-acidification is highly recommended before one encapsulates newspaper in a plastic sleeve. De-acidification sprays are available, with a standard 16 ounce spray can costing roughly $50.00.

For additional information, see the Library of Congress Preserving Newspapers site at
http://www.loc.gov/preserv/care/newspap.html

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