You’ve begun your journey into the world of ephemera. Congratulations! Now you may be wondering how best to store and preserve these artifacts. We’re here to help!
Before answering how you can store ephemera, it’s important to know why the proper technique of storing plays such a vital role in the preservation of any vintage piece of printed paper.
Why is properly storing ephemera important?
Storing ephemera is important, whether you plan to sell, display, or collect it. How you decide to store and care for your ephemera collection will be an important subject to learn. It might be a good idea to learn how to store ephemera before you start collecting as to not ruin or damage any valuables that might come into your possession.
Another reason for knowing how to properly store ephemera lies in the possibility of handling documents that could be one hundred years or older!
Take the following scenario into consideration. You come across a postcard from the year 1919 that has been kept and preserved in tip-top shape, despite the passing of a century. While on the other hand, you might come across another postcard from 1974 that has stains and rips. What could possibly be the difference between the two? You could suppose that the postcard from 1919 was stored using the proper techniques whereas the postcard from 1974 was not.
Don’t forget we’re dealing with time here! While we might not be able to prevent the aging of a document, since we can’t stop time, we can still do our best by using the proper techniques in order to successfully preserve our collections of ephemera. You might be asking, what are the proper techniques? That is why we decided to write this article!
In this article, we will go over the best and most effective ways to store ephemera. We will discuss the best options when deciding where and how to preserve your collection so as to ensure protection over the years to come.
Here are some questions to ask when it comes to storage. Luckily for you, we have had these questions ourselves and have included the answers in this article!
- Does preserving and storing vintage ephemera require a professional?
- Where is the best place to store ephemera? In the garage? In the attic? Inside the house?
- Does the temperature matter?
- How should I store vintage ephemera? Binder? Ziplock bag?
- Ephemera storage do’s and don’ts
Does preserving and storing vintage ephemera require a professional?
The answer to this question can be quite relative. While the act of storing ephemera might not require the assistance of a professional but rather research, the preservation of ephemera could demand a professional’s help. If a document has experienced ink loss, tears, missing pieces, or insect damage it would be a good idea to send it in to have a professional’s help in restoring the document before it gets any worse.
The Graphic Conservation is known to have dealt with countless documents in need of repair. Upon discovering their website we came across a section with photos of various documents they have been asked to conserve. The before and after photos with descriptions of the process are amazing! They are capable of reducing stains, removing dirt, and much more. Go ahead and make sure to check it out!
Where is the best place to store ephemera? Does the temperature matter?
I’ve decided to combine these questions since they go hand in hand.
First off, let’s answer the question, where is the best place to store ephemera?
Most often places such as the basement can be a source of high humidity levels. According to The University of Minnesota, much of the moisture in basements is due to the rainwater in the ground.
In an article written by Bob Brooke, he explains in detail the ideal environment in which to store ephemera,
“…In addition, particular attention needs to be paid to the temperature and humidity in which a collection of paper ephemera is stored. Considering that personal paper ephemera collections are mostly kept where people live, stable temperature of 68-70 degrees with relative humidity at 40-50 percent is recommended. In addition, items should be away from direct light, both sunlight and man-made illumination, to prevent them from discoloring or becoming brittle.”
Unless you live in a place where the humidity is mild and the temperature is around 65 to 70 degrees all year round, it wouldn’t be safe to store your ephemera collection in the basement, garage, or attic. Keeping your ephemera in any room where the temperature can be controlled would be the best option.
How should I store vintage ephemera?
Continuing with the article written by Bob Brooke from the web page, The Antique Almanac, he gives an answer to which type of folders should be used to ensure safekeeping,
“To store your collection, you should use acid-free folders and boxes and high quality plastic enclosures…”
What does Brooke mean by “high-quality plastic enclosures”? Because in my opinion, Ziploc is a higher quality plastic than some store brands, right? Although simple plastic baggies we use for snacks might not be what he is referring to, Bob Brooke continues to explain the best type of plastic to use,
“According to the US Library of Congress, the most preferred material for preserving valuable documents is [an] uncoated archival quality polyester film, such as Mylar® type D. or equivalent material Melinex® 516. Polyester film is a clear, inert plastic that provides excellent support for [the] fragile paper.
“Mylar® is an exceptionally strong transparent film that is resistant to moisture, pollutants, oils, and acids. It contains no volatile chemicals which will migrate to the surface of the paper and cause damage.” (Brooke, Bob. Caring for Ephemera. Retrieved from http://theantiquesalmanac.com/caringforephemera.htm)
In conclusion, Ziploc baggies will definitely not be enough. Luckily, Mylar® isn’t too hard to come by, considering that you can buy it online from Amazon. Try out these Mylar® sleeves we’ve found to be effective. It’s important to stick to Mylar® plastic as it does not contain any harmful chemicals. You can store your vintage ephemera in Mylar® plastic with a clean conscience knowing that it will be safe from moisture and any other potentially damaging elements. I have also tried the comic book bags. I recommend them as well, especially if you’re ephemera is letter size and you’re on a budget. I will link below.
Overview – Ephemera Storage Do’s and Dont’s
- DO wash your hands before handling vintage ephemera, the oils that our hands produce can potentially harm the document
- DO wear gloves if you are worried about the oils
- DON’T eat while handling vintage ephemera
- DON’T place your boxes of ephemera on the floor, but rather have them off of the ground in case of flooding.
- DO store your documents in acid-free folders.
- DO use Mylar® plastic when storing vintage ephemera.
- DO keep them out of direct sunlight, and any light for that matter.
- DON’T store your collection in garages, attics, or basements due to the influence of outside temperatures.
- DO store each piece of ephemera without folds, removing any object that might cause further ripping such as staples or pins.
Do you have any suggestions when it comes to storing vintage ephemera? If so, comment below! We’d love to hear from you!