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Document Storage and Preservation


Dieter3
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This isn't the best photo for showing this, but wanted to share what I do with my documents. As any of you document collectors know, these babies are almost always rolled up. And as you know, this makes them hard to handle for viewing and research, and it's pretty easy to add to their less than perfect state with unrolling and rolling improperly.

As you've undoubtedly seen in many an auction, a number of devices are employed to hold these down for photographing. I've found two objects to work well for this that won't cause any damage to the documents - sewing weights (there is a variety of plastic coated weight with a felt bottom), and diving weights; not the solid ones, rather the type that have shot inside a nylon pillow. But this is a pain in the butt if you need to repeatedly refer to any one document. I'm also the type that insists on wearing gloves to handle any of these objects whether they be medals or documents - cotton is nice if you need to handle the items but need to de-glove often, but they can dirty quickly. Nitrile gloves are my next choice, but these are not convenient, not to mention costly if you need to constantly de-glove. Yeah, maybe I'm over the top. If your hands are clean and dry, that's probably just fine too.

I decided my documents needed to be easier to handle, and then stored properly with the goal of preservation in mind. Easier to handle first meant they needed to be flat. I connected with a paper conservator and delivered a batch of documents that were humidified then pressed under weight for nearly 4 weeks. Yep. They are pretty flat now! The really stubborn ones still have hints of lift, but no need to unroll and weight down.

The actual storage -

Each document gets its own (slightly oversized) archival polyester sleeve with "L" seam - two sides sealed - makes for inserting the documents much easier (IMHO) than a "U" seam. The documents are fairly dirty, after all, they ain't young. A gentle rubbing down with a wallpaper sponge removes a lot of surface crud (gentle now!) For documents of Orders, the imperial stamp is either inherently unstable ink, or destabilizes with time to some degree - you can actually rub some of it off! (obviously avoid this are with the sponge!) So, to prevent static from the polyester from pulling this ink, a sheet of glassine is placed between the upper surface and the polyester. The documents are still nicely legible even though the glassine is semi-opaque. The other inks appear to be stable, so I didn't use glassine on them. I need to do some measuring to get it cut, but the last step will be to back all of these with buffered interleaving paper to help draw of any damaging acids that may still be present in or on the paper.

All of the sleeves are then stored in an archival drop-front box (lid not shown, but obviously have one!) Sure makes pulling the sleeves out a lot easier than having to lift them out. This particular box has a thin layer of carbon and zeolyte embedded in the struture that will help absorb other potential airborne pollutants. Obviously, the box storage protects from large particulates to some degree and UV/Light damage. The polyester sleeves make manipulation easy, offers good protection from bending and contact damage. They do not make for good photography though as they are very glossy (you can see a smaller document at the top reflecting light) Unfortunately, I'm somewhat at the mercy of temperature and humidity, but God knows these have seen their share of cycling throughout their lives, so not sure if it's a real issue save for any extremes that I can likely avoid. I'm hoping my efforts will give many decades of life to these documents with a minimum of degradation.

Over the top? Crazy? Perhaps, you can decide. But what the hell? You only live once, and these documents are all one of a kind, despite the majority of them not really costing a lot of money. I feel they are all worth preserving for future generations to enjoy.

IMG_8962.jpg

If any of you are interested, I'm more than happy to share details on costs, vendors, etc. The people I've dealt with to procure the materials, and the conservator were all fantastic to work with.

Edited by Dieter3
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That was great to read Dieter!! Always so nice to see someone going through trouble to keep history safe and well preserved!! And not just for pricey items, but simply because they represent history!! :beer:

I would definitely be interested in contact details for vendors who would be willing to ship these materials worldwide.

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Hello Dieter3,

Finaly someone who understands the importance of NOT touching artifacts with their bare hands!

So many collectors want people to think they are conservers with their own private museums while they continue to treat documents like they were yesterday's flyers found on the door step and their medals like they were pocket change.

Bless you my good man bless you.

Cheers :cheers:

Brian

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Ha! Somebody that doesn't think I am an extreme nut! :rolleyes:

I don't handle any of my documents or medals with bare hands, always gloves. (I forgot to mention - that white thing under the document box is actually a chemically resistant, ceramic coated pyrex "thing" (for lack of a better term). Super easy to keep clean, works great for backing the documents when I'm working with them. Got it from work, it was being discarded, so a light bulb went off in my little noggin. :blush: Point being, it's easy to stow since it is fairly thin and tops our coffee table perfectly, and being so easy to clean, I don't worry about transferring and crap to the documents if they're out of the sleeves.)

I can in no way afford actual restoration of these documents, but at least I can hopefully mitigate further significant damage and degradation. It's a bit of an investment, but well worth it to me.

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Thanks Dieter, will be very helpful!

Yeah, how often do you see, even on high end forums, items being held in a sweaty palm om the photos. WHAT ARE THEY THINKING??!!! And you always hear the excuse of "Well they survived this long OK". In a few decades the results will become clear and the items that have been handled like Dieter does his, will still survive as mint or near-mint examples. The others? Well.....

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I certainly hope so!! Yeah, the "they survived this long" reasoning just doesn't work for me. In the grand scheme of things, these are not old objects at all and really could be in vastly better condition than many of them are. They have not survived very long at all. Give them a few hundred years, then we'll talk! rolleyes.gif Dirty, crappy items are that way for a reason - poor handling and storage. Why further contribute? Why can't these things be made to last hundreds of more years? Well, I guess time will tell us if the materials are inherently self-destructive or not, but we know the human factor is destructive yet we can't eliminate it from the formula so preventative intervention is needed.

I've also heard the "I won't be around long enough for it to matter anyway" line. Yeah, but so what? Hey, each to their own, who am I to criticize? My goal just happens to be a different one. cheers.gif

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I'm reminded of a nice piece of furniture - it doesn't get chips from sitting in storage but gets them from the times it's moved.

The history of a document's condition, no matter how old, boils down to those few times it was (mis)handled.

A document may be 100 years old and ruined due to a single mistreatment.

I have a Japanese sword that has an "idiot's" fingerprints rusted into the blade and a tin case of general's epaulettes with the similar marks.

There is a well known eitquette for handling swords that honours the owner and the piece itself.

I hold that if it is historical, and can't be replaced, then handle safely and properly and with awe.

Cheers

Satsuma

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There is a well known eitquette for handling swords that honours the owner and the piece itself.

The difference between touching and handling a sword...

Heard this horror story from a collector friend of mine. Don't know where the show was, but, as you know, the swords are usually shown without the mekugi in place so that the tang can easily be shown to would be buyers. Well here comes this NFG (new f$#@## guy), picks up an antique sword and swings this. Ancient blade went through the window, two storeys down... :banger: :banger:

Edited by Kryptos
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Wow! The blade survived who knows how many battles and wars and ends its pretty existence by falling two floors from a window! If the scene made a "funny home video" show, I couldn't bear to watch!

What about the smarty-pants who carried a sword and the blade slipped from the sheath and cut his thigh. Twelve stitches later ...

(Always wise to bag the swords to prevent this.)

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