September 22, 2017

Humidity and Your Family Archive: Why It Matters

book gets dampArchivists tell us to store precious documents and photos in conditions with stable temperature and humidity. This time-lapse video shows why!

Many of us save old books, documents and photos, especially those with sentimental or family history value. But we don’t always store them carefully enough. When storage is at a premium, we may put old books and papers in attics and basements. Here they sweat out the summers, freeze in the winters and swell or shrink as humidity changes.

What kind of effect do these conditions have on our old books and papers A YouTube video posted online from the Image Permanence Institute shows what happened to a 300-year old book when it was subjected to humidity fluctuations. It actually looks like a breeze is blowing the cover off. But really, a change in humidity is plumping up those pages. That can’t be good!

To keep old pages in your family archive from curling up, swelling or mildewing, store them at a lower (and consistent) humidity. Books and papers like living in the same conditions we do, so try to make room for them in your regular living space. Tuck them away in an archival box, then under a bed, on a shelf, in a closet, in a trunk–get creative!

Learn more about this process in our interview with Denise Levenick, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 144.

Backblaze butler

More Resources

About Sunny

Sunny Morton is a genealogy writer whose work is read by thousands in magazines and online. As a Contributing Editor at Lisa Louise Cooke's Genealogy Gems, she frequently posts on the news, but also loves to share quick research tips, reveal little-known resources or take genealogists for an exhilarating dive into deeper research topics and techniques. She's also the author of My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.