Preserving Old Newspapers

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    • #131961

      Recently we helped my in-laws move and were given some old newspapers, some dating back to 1945. They are yellowed and very fragile and were kept in a plastic bag like one you would get a comforter in. We would love suggestions on how to preserve these. Thanks.

    • #131971

      Hi Kandy! I have found that newspapers can prove very hard to stabilize. I’ve read that there is no way to absolutely preserve them, because they will eventually deteriorate over time due to the fact they were probably made from a cheap wood pulp material that wasn’t meant to have longevity. However, we use a buffered tissue paper to put between each sheet to neutralize the acidity in the newspaper. We then cover it with an archival mylar sleeve and tuck it away in a box in our humidity and temperature controlled environment. Try to store the paper flat and only keep the original folds. Unfolding the original folds or folding it in new places can cause the paper to crack.

    • #131970

      I’m not sure about this, hopefully a paper conservator will chime in, but I’m thinking the mylar may serve to trap the acidity as the paper degrades. Interleaving with buffered paper and boxing are great ideas, but the interleaves may absorb acidity that much faster within a mylar enclosure. Encapsulation is a useful access measure, but perhaps some of the newspapers can be copied so that the images and info of interest can be accessible on a more stable paper.

    • #131969

      Thanks Brittany and Adrienne. We will see if we can locate some buffered tissue paper at least for now.

    • #131968

      You might want to consider using MicroChamber products. They are more expensive than ordinary buffered paper, but not significantly. Results are however spectacular, judging by their accelerated ageing experiments. Good luck.

    • #131967
      Charlene Martin

      Adrienne, I wonder about Mylar inadvertently creating harmful micro-environments too. Would anyone know if a better alternative would be enclosing the newspaper pages in large-format acid-free folders, them placing the folders in large flat boxes?

      I have a large clippings collection, and feel I should prioritize this expensive treatment to those that have evidential/intrinsic value. Does anyone have any opinion about storing the rest of the clippings in acid-free folders interleaved with acid-free paper, in document cases?

      This group has a great span of knowledge and experience, looking forward this thread continuing!

    • #131966
      Dean DeBolt

      Here in the West Florida History Center we have the holdings of some 200 newspapers from 1821 to present with active subscriptions to some 30 newspapers in the Panhandle region of Florida. I get questions all the time about saving old newspapers. The crux of the problem is whether you need to save the newspaper at all. For example, a photocopy on acid-free paper would serve for clippings. Are you thinking of exhibits? Color digital reproductions work great, too. We store our newspapers in 17 in x 23 in. acid-free boxes in our controlled stack area. In same cases, we do have acid-free interleaving, but again it will depend on whether the paper already exists on microfilm or another form before we spend a lot of staff time and resources to ‘save’ the paper. We did have some full page newspapers that we wanted to preserve. First we painted them with one of the solutions available to archivists that deacidify newspapers. In the case of already darkened papers, this does not change the darkening, but stabilizes the paper. At that point, and we were doing exhibits, we encapsulated them in Mylar, but again all this comes back to what is your purpose in keeping the paper?

      Dean DeBolt
      University Archivist / University Librarian
      West Florida History Center and University Archives
      University of West Florida Libraries, Pensacola 850-474-2213
      Facebook: West Florida history Center

    • #131965
      Jane Dalley

      There shouldn’t be a problem with polyester teraphthelate (Mylar is no longer made; Melinex is often substituted) creating a micro environment as it is permeable to vapour and gases. I have encapsulated a wet document in order to see if mould would result. It dried quite quickly.

      Aside from this, PT provides quicker and easier access to documents compared with those interleaved with a/f tissue, the static charge provides support and eliminates the need for repairs, and the document can be photocopied or scanned without removing it.

    • #131964

      Hello! Mylar is really no longer manufactured?

    • #131963

      Great info. Thanks, Jane!

    • #131962

      Dean makes a great point. We have tons of newspaper clippings, ranging from the 1930s on-wards. Very few of them are from rare newspapers, and most are from larger papers that are archived elsewhere (Microfilm, digital, physical). One of my volunteers is currently scanning them for PastPerfect and we are also making copies for our physical files. I suppose this brings up another question. Should we be making these copies on archival paper, or is the paper I get at Staples ok?

      Rejane: Mylar D is a trademarked polyester material that is no longer manufactured by DuPont. Although we often use it as a general term, Mylar is a trade name much like Kleenex or Xerox. The Melinex that Jane refers to is made by the same company and has been approved and tested by the Library of Congress.

      A slightly older discussion of the two appears here.

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