01 January 2012

Opening Day 5: Archiving Newspaper Clippings

The first day of each month, I open a box of memorabilia for archiving and digitizing. Opening Day 5 is a collection of newspaper clippings that includes the death notice of Dr. Charles W. Stratton I (See Sunday's Obituary: Charles W. Stratton I). So many of our obituaries are news clippings that have been tucked away in drawers and diaries! My goal for this month is to scan and digitally catalog a collection of documents and newspaper clippings taken from the office and diaries. (See Creating an Archival Finding Aid with your Digital Cataloging Software.)

Why newspapers and documents when I have all those wonderful photos to explore? Mainly because the fragile nature of the newspaper clippings make them a top priority. My first goal is to make not only a digital copy but also an archival quality print copy for archival storage. Newspapers were never intended to be a permanent record and even with the greatest care, may not survive.

Newspapers are printed on poor quality paper with a high acid content. If a newspaper clipping is stored in a book or next to other documents, the acid is likely to cause discoloration of the other items. Because of the acid in newspapers, clippings should be stored separately from photographs.  A spray deacidification product can be used on black-and-white newsprint items to neutralize the acid prior to storage. (Do not use on color newsprint.) The effects of the deacidification spray are not permanent. The spray will need to be reapplied after 7-10 years.

Lamination - a frequently used preservation technique in the past is no longer recommended. Lamination damages the clipping and ultimately when the lamination fails, the clipping may disintegrate!

Protect clippings by storing them in Mylar or Melinex Polyester sleeves or by encapsulating them in Mylar or Melinex. The Library of Congress (LOC) recommends deacidifying the newspaper prior to encapsulation. Placing an alkaline buffered sheet behind the clipping is also recommended. Because of the high cost of preserving newsprint, an alternate storage method is to interleave clippings with buffered paper and bundle. This preservation method should only be used if the clippings will not be frequently handled.

Ideal storage conditions for newspapers are similar to those of other archival items - store in a cool, dry place free from insects and rodents who find newspapers the perfect nesting material! Temperature and humidity variations, pollution, dust, mold and light exposure are all damaging to newspapers. Using a HEPA filter in the storage location can reduce exposure to pollution, dust and mold.

Why bother? Despite the growing number of newspapers being made available online, many are missing one or more issues - maybe just the one you have in your clipping.  Surprisingly, the obituaries and death notices were not always included when newspapers were microfilmed. Most of the online collections come from microfilmed newspapers.

Provenance is also important. A clipping saved by an ancestor likely pertains to a family member or close associate. Then there are the more sentimental reasons. Holding Charles W. Stratton I's obituary clipping and knowing it was carried by his young son in 1886 along with poems of solace is a poignant experience. If properly archived the experience can be shared with future generations.

"Preservation, Collections Care: Preserving Newspapers." Article. The Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/newspap.html#skip_menu : 2011.

"Preservation and Conservation: Protect your Newspapers and Clippings." Article. Florida Department of State Division of Library & Information Services. http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/archives/preservation/Newspapers/index.cfm : 2011.

"Preservation and Conservation: Encapsulation." Article. Florida Department of State Division of Library & Information Services.http://dlis.dos.state.fl.us/archives/preservation/Encapsulation/index.cfm : 2011.

Long, Jane S. and Richard W. Long. Caring for Your Family Treasures, Heritage Preservation, A Concise Guide to Caring for your cherished belongings. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000.


  1. Your blog is becoming such a great repository of wonderful tips. It's nice to know that I can always refer back to your blog when I want to remember how to do something.

  2. Thanks Kathy! I've researched this topic in 1999, 2003 and now again in 2012. Thankfully my previous work has preserved the clippings found thus far. Now to scan them all should my attempts at preservation not last another 100+ years.


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