Today I opened some old boxes in our basement and found that many of the treasures tucked inside have been damaged. The biggest culprit seems to be newsprint and newspapers that have infected other items through acid migration. This sweet little baby book, for example, was layered between two construction paper folders filled with grade school papers. The satin fabric cover of the book is stained with sad brown blotches.
Inside, a folded piece of newsprint with a hand drawn picture has permanently damaged the first pages. To the right side of the photo you can see a distinct line from the newsprint page.
In recent years I’ve been careful to use archival boxes when storing my ancestor’s papers, but I’ve neglected looking back at my own things. This box was probably stashed away not long after we moved into our house in 1979, so the baby album was probably stored like this for 30 plus years, basically one generation.
The entire box is a classic case of poor storage, and a good lesson in How Not to Archive Memorabilia. The box itself is low-grade corrugated cardboard. It contained a mixture of items spanning 30 years, from the 1950s through the late 1970s, including
newspapers and clippings
grade school paintings on newsprint
school composition books
beer mats from a trip to Germany
satin covered baby album
small Bible with cover falling off
travel ticket stubs, brochures, etc.
folders of school work and papers
I haven’t unpacked the box completely, but everything seems to be speckled with brown stains, presumably from the newsprint and cardboard. I think much of the damage would have been avoided if I had separated the newsprint items from other materials and stored these separately. The box itself probably contributed to the problem, as well.
Although it’s a little late to save the baby book, I plan to work my way through the contents in the next few days and try to salvage what I can.
If you are 30 years old, or older, you may have a box of treasures you haven’t looked at in a while. My box is a sad reminder of what can happen under poor storage conditions. I hope your treasures fare better!