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Hi! I have boxes of old family letters and would like to know if anyone has any suggestions for preserving them. Are there any particular materials I would need? Any information would be helpful.

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I would probably just put them in an archival box if you have many of them. My family has a special letter from my mother's grandmother that includes two recipes we use at Christmas, and 2 years ago, we found a frame with 2 pieces of glass, with a frame around it, so we could see the other side if we took it off the wall. We keep it in the frame on the wall in the kitchen, instead of folded up in a box somewhere. :)

It's not a direct answer, but I highly recommend digitizing (scanning) the letters. That way multiple children, and kin, can have copies, and the letters can be read without the originals being harmed. Transcribing the letters is taking this a step further, since then you will be able to search through them on your computer.
I came across a box of old letters and some of them appeared to be completely blank. When I scanned them and adjusted the contrast and a few other settings, I was able to actually read what had been written! It was so amazing. So don't discard "blank" sheets!
The best way I have found to preserve old letters and other papers like that is to put them in ACID FREE sleeves you can get at office supply stores or Wal-Mart if you have one close by and then seal the sleeves at the top.
If you have a little bit of extra money, go to Google and type in {"wei to" soft spray}, then go to Wal-Mart, Office Depot, Staples, or any such like and buy some ACID-FREE mylar sheet protectors and some nsrrow 2 sided tape (I use 3M}, lay half the sheet on a CLEAN flat surface like a old table. put the 2 sided tape on one side of the mylar big enough to go completely around the outside of the document/letter.without touching the document, the document within that space surrounded by the tape, and VERY carefully put the other sheet of mylar over the whole of it and press it down flat..

If you are short of money, use a spray bottle (like Windex) and add a half teaspoon of soda to a qt.of DISTILLED water from Krogers, Wal-Mart, or wherever, dissolve the soda in that water, let it sit till it is at room temperature, and like you would with Wei-to, mist the back side of whatever you are preserving, let it dry THOROUGHLY, and then place the other sheet of mylar over the document like you would do if you had used Wei-to, press the top sheet of mylar firmly against the surface, thereby creating a sleeve sealed on all 4 sides, and SHAZAM you have done pretty well at preserving whatever. Keep it out of the sunlight as the ink on the memento will fade away and be sure to keep the whole of it in a cool corner of your house. I keep mine under the bed.

Good luck.

Personally, I have had good luck so far by just laying the letter on acid free card stock (keeps the letter flat and from wrinkling) and inserting the whole thing together into an archival safe page protector. These go into binders which are stored in a controlled environment and they very seldom are under any type of light.

If they are not very fragile, you can make a scan or copy of them before you store them and use the copy to share with someone else or to work from, leaving the original protected.
If you have the wherewithal to afford professionally done preservation, that would be a way to go. Look under Archival framing in your yellow pages or google it for your location. I am doing a piece that way from 1838 that's a one of a kind find. Yes, it is expensive, but the piece came from Ontario, Canada and I live in the desert southwest, two totally different environmental locations. The conservationist also suggested after I receive the mylar sleeve and folder, to put it in a coffee table book or some other large book ( it's a big piece). Remember our ancestors used to dry things in books all the time, so that makes some sense to keep it flat and protected. Why the preservation? To remove the acid already destroying the document and to clean it from other substances. It also protects for the future. My personal scanner isn't big enough to do this piece at all. I will be getting a scanned copy framed, thus keeping the original out of sunlight and frequent handling. Just a thought.
There is quite a bit of advice online for this subject too:

From the National Archives - Preserving Family Papers

National Archives of Australia" target="_blank">Preserving physical records
and more..
First, let all key family members know that you have them. You are lucky.
The replies here are very helpful. For example, once digitized, you won't have to worry about having all of your valuable eggs/letters in one basket/home.
After scanning, do those archival steps.

I've posted a 4-page outline and extensive bibliography in my Preservation group.
PS: new archival CD/DVDs are are their way to the public.



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