Tips on looking after your own documents
Culture: Libraries, Archives and Information
Hints and tips on
looking after your family
photographs, documents and
© Sheffield Libraries Archives and Information 2009
Images can be copied for private or educational use without permission from
us, though we ask that the following acknowledgement is included ‘From the
collections of Sheffield Libraries Archives and Information’. Please contact us
if you wish to publish, exhibit or broadcast any of the information within this
General tips
Photographs / 35mm transparencies / slides
Compact discs (CDs) and Digital Versatile Discs (DVDs)
Video tape, cine film and audio cassettes
9 - 10
Further reading and contacts
Sheffield Conservation Unit facilities and contact details
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Looking after your family photographs, documents and books
We all have precious items that we would like to keep safe. These can be birth,
marriage and death certificates, our school reports, certificates of achievement,
birthday cards, post cards, love letters, children’s drawings, diaries, photographs,
photograph albums, cine films and video tapes, CDs and DVDs and books. To
ensure your treasured items last for many years and can be passed on to future
generations we have put together these handy hints and tips.
General tips:
Store all items away from direct sunlight and high temperature.
Place items in good quality storage material – archival quality, (see page 12
for Suppliers).
Handle with care.
If labelling use caution. Place information on the wrapper/enclosure and not
on the items. Use a 2B pencil rather than a pen.
Seek professional advice, (see page 11 for Contacts).
Try not to use:
Polythene bags or A4 stationery plastic pockets as these can stick to paper
and photographs.
Any pressure sensitive tapes (such as sellotape) as these are irreversible and
can damage and stain items.
Staples and pins.
Elastic rubber bands.
Post-it notes.
Biros/ felt tip pens/fountain pens/roller ball pens etc.
We should not:
Store in high temperature and direct sunlight, as this causes irreversible
damage – making items become brittle and information to fade.
Store in high humidity as this can cause mould/water stains/ attract insects –
this damage is also irreversible.
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Do not store in cellars, attics, lofts, garages or sheds as the above can
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Paper items
Archival envelopes and archival boxes.
Polyester sleeves – providing the paper is
not brittle/ has not been written in pencil/has
crayon or chalk or pastels.
Brass paper clips with a fold of paper.
2B pencil for labelling on wrappers. It is
advisable not to write on your item as the
pressure of your writing can damage the
Vinyl gloves (beware if you have allergies)
as cotton gloves can be difficult to use.
For newspapers we recommend photocopying or scanning as the
originals will not last. Originals turn yellow and brittle very quickly due to
the paper being of very poor quality.
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Photographs / 35mm transparencies / slides
Use archival quality polyester sleeves.
Place photographs into polyester sleeves and not in self adhesive photograph
Use cotton gloves to handle photographs carefully.
Place photograph albums into archival boxes.
Check colour photographs and transparencies (slides) regularly as colour
fades. Re-copy, scan, and back up images if using CDs or inkjet prints done
at home etc.
Compact discs (CDs) and Digital Versatile Discs (DVDs)
If storing documents and images on CDs
/DVDs, back up and use the best you can
afford. Gold CDs with phthalocyanine dyes
last longer.
Use CD- Rs rather than CD-RWs this will
prevent you mistakenly overwriting
Check CDs/DVDs regularly and back up.
Place CDs/DVDs into archival quality cases
made from polypropelene purchased from
specialist suppliers, (see page 12 for
suggested suppliers). Do not store in
standard polycarbonate jewel cases.
Do not leave CDs/DVDs in machines and remember to clean machines
regularly via manufacturers' instructions.
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Handle CDs/DVDs with care, hold through centre hole and edges.
35mm transparencies can be placed into
archival quality pockets or into archival
Check your transparencies regularly as
they can fade. Ensure you either copy or
back up on CDs/DVDs and look after as
When cleaning use a lint free cloth
and wipe from the centre to the
edges. Protect your CDs/DVDs by
wearing vinyl gloves.
Video tape, cine film and audio cassettes
Ensure you wind these through at
regular intervals and do not leave
them in their part wound state as this
will cause the tapes and film to
Ensure your equipment is regularly
cleaned to manufacturers’
Remember to remove your tape/film from your machine.
Consider having these transferred to DVD or CD, (but always keep the
original video tape or cine film).
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Store books on your book case either upright or flat depending on size and
Do not overfill the book shelf as this makes it difficult to remove books and
can damage spines.
Avoid eating and drinking whilst reading.
Try not to leave books open as this will damage the spine and can cause
pages to fall out, especially if they are paperbacks.
Use a book mark instead of folding back the corner as this can cause the
paper to crack.
(New) books can last longer by opening them as follows:
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Try not leave books in direct sunlight.
Store books away from direct heat and light as this can cause damage.
Do not repair with any pressure sensitive tapes (such as sellotape) as this
causes further damage.
Use archival quality boxes.
Protect fragile books by folding an acid free/pH buffered artist paper around
the cover.
Fragile books can be placed on to a cushion when reading This will help in
opening the book and protecting the spine.
Do not photocopy books as this damages the spine and can cause the pages
to fall out. Consider using a digital camera instead.
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Further reading and contacts
Reilly James M. Care and Identification of 19th century Photographic Prints
(Kodak 1986)
Coe, Brian and Mark Haworth-Booth A Guide to Early Photographic Processes
(Victoria and Albert Museum 1983)
(Sheffield Archives: COE/ART)
Taylor, Maureen Preserving your Family Photographs : how to organize, present and
restore your precious family images (Betterway Books 2001)
(Sheffield Local Studies Library: 779 SQ; copies available to borrow from Manor and
Ecclesfield libraries, 771.46Q)
Martin, Elizabeth Collecting and Preserving Old Photographs (Collins, 1988)
(Sheffield Local Studies Library: 779 SQ)
The National Preservation Office has various publications/leaflets on their website
• Looking after CDs/DVDs
• Understanding and Caring for Bookbindings
• Preservation of photographic material
• Photocopying of library and archive material
• Good handling principles for library and archive material
Yorkshire Film Archive - provide advice on film care and preservation. Specialist
staff can advise on the care and handling of film and moving images.
The National Archives – can offer advice on the preservation of digital images.
Conservation Unit , Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information – offer free
advice and may be able to take on conservation work.
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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The following list is a suggested starting point. The Conservation Unit does not
favour one supplier in preference to another. Users should check suitability of
materials for themselves. Other suppliers are also available.
Secol Ltd– polyester sleeves, archival quality photographic storage systems:
Conservation Resources UK Ltd – archival quality papers, tissues, wallets, boxes:
Conservation by Design Ltd – archival quality papers, tissues, wallets, boxes
Preservation Equipment Ltd - archival quality papers, tissues, wallets, boxes:
I Waterman boxes storage boxes suitable for family papers, documents,
Pinders Ltd – local Sheffield art supply shop – supply art quality/acid free papers,
pencils, colour photocopying service:
Peak Professional – local Sheffield photographic processing and printing service :
Institute of Conservation – – then click on Find a
June 2009
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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Sheffield Conservation Unit specialises in the conservation
and preservation of archive and library material which
includes books, documents, manuscripts, maps, seals,
photographs, films, and prints. These can date from 12th
century to present day. All practical archive conservation is
visible, reversible and sympathetic to the original item’s
format according to British Standard 4971.
Our facilities include: • expert staff to offer advice on how to
look after your books, photographs and documents •
conservators work to and maintain accreditation • archives
are stored to British Standard 5454 • fully equipped
conservation studio.
Sheffield Conservation Unit
52 Shoreham Street
S1 4SP
Tel: 0114 20 39399
Fax: 0114 20 39398
© Sheffield City Council, 2009
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