How Do We Store Books?

Care, Handling and Storage of Books

  • Place similar sized books, next to each other on a book shelf vertically, packing them neither too loosely nor tightly. This will help to prevent warping of a tall book next to a short book.

  • Avoid direct sunlight. A large ultraviolet (UV) component fades leather and cloth. Dust, dirt and grime from handling can adversely affect books and printed materials.

  • If a book will not lay flat, do not force it to open further. The covers should always be supported when the book is open.

  • The use of paper clips and marking pens to make notations should be discouraged since clips will rust or crimp the pages and pens often bleed through the paper, obscuring text. The folding down of page corners is also damaging as it will often cause the page corner to break off over time.

  • The practice of using rubber bands or string to tie-up a book should be avoided because both will cut into brittle pages and damage fragile covers. A flat, soft ribbon (such as cotton twill tape), can be used to tie up the books as an immediate and temporary solution. An excellent way to protect fragile books is with a box that is custom made to the dimensions of the book.

How Do We Preserve Photos?

Caring for a Photographic Collection

Preventing deterioration

  • Relative humidity is the single most important factor in preserving most photographic materials. Relative humidity levels above 60% will accelerate deterioration. Low and fluctuating humidity may also damage them. Conditions of around 68°F and 30-40% relative humidity are appropriate and easiest to maintain in enclosed areas. High temperatures and high relative humidity levels will accelerate deterioration.

  • Exposure to visible and ultraviolet (UV) light is potentially damaging to photographs. Light can cause embrittlement, yellowing and color fading in prints and hand-colored surfaces.

  • Atmospheric pollutants, particularly sulfur compounds, will cause black and white images to fade and discolor. Gas by-products given off by fresh paint fumes, plywood, deteriorated cardboard and many cleaning supplies may cause accelerated image deterioration. Storage in non-acidic containers is recommended.

  • Handling photographic materials: Avoid touching fragile photographic materials; salts in human perspiration may damage surfaces. Wear clean cotton gloves if possible when handling negatives and prints.


Storage of photographic materials:

  • House photos in protective enclosures to keep out gritty dirt and dust which can abrade images, retain moisture, and deposit contaminates. Avoid and/or remove materials such as acidic paper or cardboard, rubber bands, paper clips, and pressure-sensitive tapes and rubber cement.

  • Paper enclosures must be acid-free.

  • Prints of historic value should be matted with acid-free rag or museum board for protection. Adhesives should not touch the print.

  • Store all prints and negatives that are matted or placed in paper or plastic enclosures in acid-free boxes.

How Do We Preserve Printed Materials?

preserving works on paper

Preventing deterioration

  • Store paper materials in dark, cool, relatively dry locations. Aim for 35% relative humidity and below 72°F. Avoid light, heat and dampness. Maintaining steady temperature and relative humidity is preferable over conditions that cycle up and down. Inside walls are drier than outside walls, where moisture can collect.


  • Most paper items are susceptible to damage from ultraviolet (UV) and visible light. UV radiation, which is emitted by the sun and fluorescent bulbs, is particularly damaging to paper items. The intensity and length of exposure to visible light in paper items should be reduced as much as possible.

Pollution, dust and pests

  • Paper materials should be protected from dust and dirt. Monitor for evidence of rodents and insects, such as silver fish, book lice and book worms, which can eat, soil and damage paper; good housekeeping and environmental conditions will help reduce the threat of these pests.


  • It is best to store paper items flat, rather than folding and unfolding, which can lead to creases and tears.

  • Paper materials may be stored in acid-free alkaline folders, polyester film folders or alkaline mats. Alkaline paper or board provides a desirable neutralizing effect on acidity. The stiffness of the storage folder or box should provide adequate support to the item(s) in storage and transport. Since acidity migrates, acidic storage materials should be avoided, and highly acidic materials, such as newspapers or telegrams should be isolated to avoid acid migration.