(Gillette, Wyo.) Around 30 people gathered at the Campbell County Rockpile Museum to seek information from a workshop on how they can better preserve various family documents for the future.
From avoiding contamination from food and drink, to protecting them against themselves and their acidic properties found within the paper they are printed on, protecting valuable documents can be a little difficult.
But for family treasures such as those displayed by attendees of the Caring for Your Family Treasures Documents, the effort could very well be worth it.
The documents brought forth consisted of a wide range of printed works such as post cards to hand written letter from WWI and one attendee even presented a Christening document from 19th century Germany, which Angela Beenken, Rockpile Museum registrar, seemed particularly interested in.
“You don’t see this very often with modern documents,” she said, explaining how the intricate artwork and calligraphy style writing on the document was well and truly unique.
Other items of interest included newspapers from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, a homesteading document from the 1800’s, and even a writing book from a 19th century school.
Beenken offered advice on how to properly care for such documents, starting with handling. Beenken insisted that, when handling old and possibly fragile documents, gloves be worn, whether latex or, even better, cotton to avoid contaminating them with oils from the body.
How the document is stored also plays a significant role in a documents longevity, and Beenken said that for some documents, such as newspapers printed on lower quality paper, should even be kept well away from sunlight. Storing documents should be done with care, Beenken said, and should be stored within acid free document: sleeves, folders and boxes. Newspapers should also be handled as little as possible until they can be laid flat on a stable surface.
But occasionally, some documents are just too far gone to be preserved, which is when owners should consider an alternative, digitizing the document to preserve the information. Digitizing a document could also help preserve against a natural disaster such as a tornado or even the fires burning in California at this very moment.
“Offsite storage is probably the best,” Beenken said in reference to natural disasters. She said that when digitizing documents, owners should use an external hard drive instead of the more popular flash drive. Flash drives are vulnerable to corruption, Beenken said.
The Rockpile museum is no stranger to handling old and fragile documents and tries to follow the standards outlined during the outline with any document on display within. Though Beenken said that most of the documents in the museum came from a later period, a result of Wyoming being a relatively young state.
The Rockpile museum only occasionally receives requests for advice on how to preserve documents outside of its workshops, but Beenken wished it be made known that that resource is always there, ready and willing to help the residents of Gillette and Campbell County.
Next month, the Rockpile Museum will be hosting another preservation workshop, this one for books and residents are encouraged to attend.