Top 10 Archival Storage Solutions for Family Heirlooms

Top 10 Archival Storage Solutions

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Family historians often end up with family heirlooms and documents that need archival storage. 
 
In addition to the items you already have, you may find yourself receiving things from other relatives like family bibles, scrapbooks, and military uniforms.
 
The task of correctly archiving the family history can definitely get a bit overwhelming. However, with the right tools and supplies you can make a real difference in preserving your family’s treasures for future generations.
 
Denise May Levenick is the author of The Family Curator blog and writer for Family Tree Magazine and she joins me in episode 81 to share her top ten archival storage solutions for family historians.

Short on time? This week’s video is just 20 minutes and packed with the archival solutions you need. The video premieres on Thursday and features a live chat. 

Watch the live premiere of this week’s video and participate in live chat with our Genealogy Gems YouTube channel subscriber family. (Subscribing to our channel is free. Click the red Subscribe button on the video page on our channel.)

Thursday, December 9, 2021 at 11:00 am CT 
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Length: 24 minutes

Three ways to watch the show:

1. Video Player (Live) – Watch the video premiere at the appointed time in the video player above.
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3. Video Player above (Replay) – Available immediately after the live premiere and chat. 

Episode 81 Show Notes 

Download the ad-free show notes It includes a special supply checklist that can be printed out as a single page. (Premium Member log in required. Not a Premium Member? Become a Genealogy Gems Premium Member.)

(Please note: This interview transcription has been minimally altered for ease of reading and clarity.)

Lisa: I’d love to talk about the archival supplies we need. Because obviously, to complete a task and do a good job of it, we got to have the right tools. That’s certainly true when it comes to archiving.  You’ve got 10 of your top tools that I know that you’ve used as an archivist. What is number one?

1. Archival File Folders

Denise: The first thing has to be archival file folders. They are not terribly expensive. And really, what you want to do is put your item, whatever it is, in the highest quality folder or box or something to protect it right away. But since most of us have pictures and paper, a file folder really is a good place to start.

Denise recommends these archival file folders.

Lisa: That sounds great because often other family members are giving us things, and we may not have time to deal with it right then and there. It sounds like this would be a very safe place to put it.

Denise: It is. You can purchase them in a box of 50 or 100. If you have a lot of items or just 10 or a dozen folders, it really can scale to suit whatever the size of your archives might be.

We really do need to take that extra step and seek out acid-free, lignin-free archival file folders. The kind you buy at the office supply store are just not the quality you need to preserve your papers and your photos. You can actually cause more damage if you put things in those.

Lisa: Because there’s probably acids in those, right?

Denise: Right, because the regular office supply ones, particularly the kind that are just for regular office use, they have so much acid in them that they can cause your item to deteriorate even more.

Lisa: Okay, so number two I see here is flip-top document case. This sounds like a specialty item. What are we talking about?

2. Flip-Top Document Case

These boxes are so confusing when you’re shopping. The names of these document cases and boxes can be confusing. The one I use looks like a mini file folder box. That’s exactly what it is. Examples of the kinds of things you can store in them include old rolled up documents, military photos, and banquet photos. I have a process to flatten these, but meanwhile I needed to store them.

You can reuse this kind of a box for anything. It doesn’t have to just be file folders. But because it’s designed for file folders, it’s really perfect. It’s even got a little tag to pull it out on the shelf if you need to pull it out. There’s a place to add a label.

It’s about five inches wide. I like this size because when you get those file folders in there, it gets heavy and a lot of people store these up on shelves. They can be heavy to move down. I bought some real wide ones that are seven or eight inches. And man, those things are heavy! So, I recommend smaller ones.

Lisa: I have some items that are definitely odd sizes, or like you said they were originally rolled up and I haven’t flattened them out and decided what to do with them yet. So, this sounds great.

Recommended flip-top document case

The third item on your list is oversized document or photo box. So, it sounds similar. We often have larger items we’re struggling with, and we don’t want to fold it up.

3. Oversized Document or Photo Box

Denise: No, in fact, you want to unfold the item, and let those folds relax.

The archival suppliers make a box that is large, larger than a shirt box. So it might hold a fully open newspaper. Or they work well for portraits or drawings or maps. They’re typically quite shallow. They won’t be necessarily a clamshell kind of opening like the boxes we just mentioned. It might be a lift off top. But you can use it for anything. And the reason it is shallow is you don’t want to put a lot of weight on the things that are on the bottom.

If you can afford it, buy large file folders that will protect your item, and then you put it in the box.

You should keep things like newspapers separate. You do not want to store newspapers with anything else other than newspapers because they’re so toxic. The newsprint is just full of acid. You want that isolated from everything else.

4. Newspaper Preservation Kit

Lisa: So that must be why number four is the newspaper preservation kit. I didn’t realize that there was one.

Denise: Yes, newsprint is a big offender.

When I visited the New England historic genealogical library in Boston, and I got a tour of their upstairs archives. It was so exciting. I felt like I was you know, in the inner sanctum. I was shown rows and rows of archival boxes. And then just stacks of items people have donated like Bibles and books and family papers. They all had to be processed and organized. The archivists there told me they will not accept donations of newspapers. Because they are so toxic, anything they touch will turn brown. And it just degrades everything around it. So ,you want to be sure to isolate your newspapers if you’re going to keep them.

What they do at the library is photocopy the newspaper onto acid free paper. Or they scan it and then print a copy on acid free paper and get rid of the newsprint.

Lisa: That sounds like a really clever way to deal with that problem. So even if grandma gives you her newspapers, and she’s also got other stuff with it, you don’t want to keep it that way. You need to separate it out.

Denise: If you really want to keep like an obituary because it’s an original paper or something, that would be a good case for encapsulating in between two sheets of archival plastic. You can encapsulate it and then you can put it right back in that Bible because it’s isolated.

Denise recommends using this Newspaper Preservation Kit

Lisa: Alright, so next we have acid free tissue paper. What would you be using this for?

5. Acid Free Tissue Paper

Denise: I love this stuff! I keep a stack of it here at home.

One time my dad gave me a stereograph, you know the thing you hold up and there’s double pictures. He gave me one of those. It was my grandfather’s. It was in of all things an envelopes box. A crummy, terrible box. And it was wrapped in red tissue paper! Have you ever like gotten a drop of water on red tissue paper? It bleeds terribly!

In the box along with the stereo cards were photo cards. And, being my dad, (he’s very strict) it’s “my way or the highway.” So, I couldn’t really tell him anything.

I took the box and he said he wanted it right back. I had some acid free tissue paper, so I just took the red tissue paper out, and cushioned everything in that dumb non-archival box with the acid free tissue paper. I took some pictures of it and looked at the cards, and then I gave it back to him. It was in a lot better shape! So, if you have acid free tissue paper, you are golden when stuff like that happens.

You can also use it to stuff the sleeves of a military uniform or wedding dress. You can wrap a pair of baby shoes in it. You can use it between layers of photographs. It’s just really helpful to have on hand.

Denise recommends getting loads of this acid free tissue paper.

Lisa: It sounds like we definitely need a stack of it on hand at all times.

6. Acid Free Flip top Photo and Print Box

Lisa: So now we are onto number 6 and another box designed for an unique purpose.

Denise: These boxes are designed in different sizes and colors. It doesn’t matter what color they are. They’re made out of a heavier board. And actually, this little box will protect your contents against even mild changes in temperature and humidity. It’s a really good protection.

I use one that is five inches by seven inches. It’s designed to hold five by seven photos on edge. Putting them on their edge ensures that there isn’t pressure placed on them by the weight of things on top. These come in all sizes. You can get big ones that are more like a shoe box.

If you have a lot of photos, you can get dividers to use in the box. But this would also be fine. You could even use some acid free tissue and put a pair of baby shoes in there.

Lisa: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Denise: The thing I like about these boxes is you can write on them, or you can add a label.

I cleaned out my parents homes after they died, if I came across a box like this, this says to me, “oh, there’s something special in there.”

Lisa: Yes. I totally agree with that! As I’m putting stuff together in my office, I’m thinking when I’m gone, I want something that signals to people “Keep this! Don’t toss this! This is important!” You’re kind of dressing it up and letting them give them a signal that this has been already taken care of so it needs to continue to be taken care of.

7. Archival Quality Albums

Well, number seven is archival albums. This one resonates with everybody. I mean, is there anybody who doesn’t have magnetic photo albums from 1970s, where we just struggled with things sticking and you can’t take it apart? I imagine an archival quality album would really help us with photos, negatives, letters and anything flat.

Denise: Right! The albums are designated archival quality. You want to look for a binder that is archival, as well as the inside pages. If you want to scrapbook, then you just want the paper and you would probably use photo corners. You could then write with an archival pen.

Something to be careful about is when you put a binder together. You might want to put it on a bookshelf, which is fine, but the dust can still get in from the top. Light and dust are the real enemy of things that you’re trying to preserve. So, buy a slipcover or keep them in your closet. That’s really the best place for these things because they’re protected from the light and the temperature that way.

Lisa: Good point. So, you’re saying that if you want them in your living room where people can pull them off the shelf and look at them, you will want to lay something over the top of the albums so that dust isn’t settling inside.

Denise: Yes. You know how the top of your books can get dusty!

Here’s a great selection of archival quality albums.

Lisa: Exactly. I hadn’t thought about that with my photo albums. That’s a really good point.

Sometimes we have still have negatives. I know my husband inherited a lot of negatives from his side of the family. And, you know, we may or may not be ready to make prints out of all of them as soon as we get them, but we want to keep them What do you recommend for that?

8. Negative Preserver

You can use a box that is designed for negatives. It’s shorter.

Typically the 35mm negatives came in a little plastic sleeve, and that is good to use. A lot of times you can get archival supplies at a camera store. They use good quality, and I think they have something called a print file available.

Another option for negatives is binder sleeves. They’re a full page and they have little slots to put the negatives in, and then you put them in a binder that has sort of a clamshell closing. I have several of those and they work pretty well. They protect the edges of the negatives.

Lisa: Excellent!

9. Archival Slide and Media Boxes

Number 9 takes us into even more kinds of media with Archival Slide and Media Boxes. I know when I got all my VHS tapes digitized, I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. So you’re saying that if we want to keep different forms and media, there are special boxes for that too?

Denise: Right. There are boxes that are acid free, like the ones I showed you that are sized for media and slides. You can get metal slide boxes that are pretty nice. I would avoid wooden ones. I have a few of those we inherited. But even metal ones I found at the thrift shops. People got rid of their old slide boxes.

The Kodak slide boxes that they came in aren’t bad. Slide carousels just take up a lot of space. Remember those carousels? But you can get them and they make boxes for all kinds of things. You don’t have to only use a box that is labeled a slide storage box. You can put it in something that fits.

Lisa: Good to know.

Denise: They also make them uniquely for the different types of films.

Lisa: Yes, I think I’ve got some home movie on every type of media ever created over the decades which is a good problem to have, but it’s a challenge.

Here’s a great archival quality video cassette tape box.

10. Archive Blue E-Flute Quilt Preservation Kit

Number 10 reminds me of when you and I first met gosh, probably a dozen years ago at least. And I remember talking to you about quilts. One of your specialties is really your knowledge of dealing with textiles. So often we’re thinking photos and paper but if we’re fortunate we might have a uniform, tablecloth, quilt or other textile. Tell us what this kit can do for us.

Denise: I love these! The archival boxes that I showed earlier are wonderful, but they’re heavy. Just the box itself. Imagine you have a full size bed quilt. You need a big box which is expensive and heavy.

The E flute is a kind of plastic. You’ve probably seen it used as packing material. It’s got little ridges. And it’s kind of translucent plastic stuff. That’s the best description I can think of, but it’s very lightweight. You can order one of these boxes, it comes folded or flat and you kind of assemble it. There are other types too.

archival quilt storage solution box

Archival quilt storage solution box

I bought one for my quilts. The only trick is because the E Flute is translucent, it won’t keep the light out. I have a beautiful old velvet album quilt, and I have folded that inside a sheet and put that whole thing in the E flute box, and then stored it in a dark.  I have a little archive space where I keep that kind of thing.

They make them different sizes and in kits. I really do recommend them.

Denise recommendation: Quilt Preservation Kit

Lisa: Well, that’s the next thing on my list. I have my husband’s father’s military uniform. Part of what was holding me back in storing it was getting the right kind of box. I was thinking it was going to be one of these really heavy big boxes. So, this sounds like a really nice alternative.

Denise, you’ve given us 10 fantastic archival heirloom solutions. It’s wonderful to hear that they’re available in such a wide variety. Thank you so much, my friend. It’s wonderful to see you and I really appreciate your sharing your knowledge with us.

Denise: Thank you. It’s been nice to talk with you again, Lisa. And hope to see you again sometime soon.

Lisa: Me too!

Resources

Native American Genealogy – Episode 76

Native American genealogy research follows the same path that all good genealogy research does, but it also includes some unique records along the way. It’s a fascinating journey, and in Elevenses with Lisa episode 76 professional genealogist Judy Nimer Muhn (Lineage Journeys) joins Lisa Louise Cooke to pave the way. Judy will discuss:

  • Tribal and personal naming conventions
  • Tribal-specific resources
  • How geography impacts research
  • Native American genealogical records
  • and more…

Episode 76 Show Notes 

Native American genealogy research follows the same path that all good genealogy research does, but it also includes some unique records along the way. It’s a fascinating journey, and in Elevenses with Lisa episode 76 professional genealogist Judy Nimer Muhn (Lineage Journeys) joins Lisa Louise Cooke to pave the way. Judy will discuss:

  • Tribal and personal naming conventions
  • Tribal-specific resources
  • How geography impacts research
  • Native American genealogical records
  • and more…

Five Tribes

  • Navaho/Navajo: Diné
  • Cherokee: Tsalagi or Aniyunwiya
  • Sioux: Lakota, Nakota or Dakota
  • Chippewa: Ojibwa
  • Choctaw: Choctah or Chahta

GEOGRAPHY

Native Land Map

 Features:

  • Enter a location
  • Mouse and click around on the map to see the relevant territories in a location.
  • Select or search from a dropdown of territories, treaties, and languages.
  • Click and links will appear with nation names. Click a link to be taken to a page specifically about that nation, language, or treaty.
  • Export the map to a printable image file
  • You can turn map labels on or off to see non-Indigenous borders and towns
  • Mobile apps available for iOS and Android.
Native Map Digital Map

Native Map Digital Map

CENSUS RECORDS

Census Records at Genealogy Websites:

From the Article: “Native people were largely excluded from the federal census until at least 1860.”

Native American Research at FamilySearch Wiki

Native American Research at FamilySearch Wiki

National Archives

  • Article by James P. Collins called Native Americans in the Census, 1860-1890 which will help you understand what you may be able to find during that time period.

At the National Archives you will find:

  • Links to Native American records
  • Download data collection research sheets for free

Visit the National Archives resource page for Native American Research

The Bureau of Indian Affairs

The Bureau of Indian Affairs was required to take an annual census of Native communities. (ex. Dawes Rolls)

  • Some are available for free at Familysearch.org
  • Compiled into one collection ranging from 1885 to 1940.
  • Not all communities were represented.
  • Collection may not be fully indexed

Free Native American Genealogy Databases

  1. 1817 Cherokee Reservation Roll
  2. 1880 Cherokee Census
  3. 1924 Baker Roll
  4. 1954 Proposed Ute Rolls
  5. Armstrong Rolls
  6. Dawes Commission Case Files
  7. (Dawes Rolls) Final Rolls Index and Search the Final Rolls
  8. Drennen Rolls
  9. Guion Miller Roll
  10. Kern Clifton Rolls
  11. McKennon Roll
  12. Old Settlers Roll
  13. Wallace Roll

Library of Congress

Here you’ll find many resources including newspapers, photos and reports to congress and oral histories.

Judy found materials deep within the Library of Congress website using Googling strategies from my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox available exclusively at the Genealogy Gems Store.

Michigan State University

Native American Studies Research Guide: Introduction

Michigan State University Native American Resources

Michigan State University Native American Resources

Resources

These show notes feature everything we cover in this episode. Premium Members: download this exclusive ad-free show notes handout PDF.  Not a member yet? Learn more and join the Genealogy Gems and Elevenses with Lisa family here

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership

How to Watch the Show Live

Three ways to watch:
1. Video Player (Live) – Watch live at the appointed time in the video player on the show notes page.
2. On YouTube (Live) – Click the Watch on YouTube button to watch live at the appointed time at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. Log into YouTube with your free Google account to participate in the live chat. 
3. Video Player above (Replay) – Available immediately after the live premiere and chat. 

Elevenses with Lisa Archive

See all of the available episodes here. 

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The New Ancestry Site: New Features, Mixed Reviews

Ancestry new site screenshotAncestry’s new site is now available to all U.S. users–across browsers, mobile devices, and the PC/Mac divide. It’s more than just a cosmetic or branding overhaul. The way Ancestry explains it, many changes boil down to helping users find family stories and improving their mobile experience. And while using the new site is still optional (see below), there are good reasons to start using it now. Mostly because the old site will be going away–possibly along with data you enter in it from this point forward. Many users adapt without much thought; for others, these changes are painful.

Ancestry logo new site“The new Ancestry experience was based on extensive research of problems our users are facing and their current needs,” states an FAQ on Ancestry. “We surveyed and interviewed thousands of users and found that new and long-time users wanted to be able to find and write their family stories. Based on this information we decided to provide more powerful storytelling features (LifeStory), coupled with tools to make research easier (updated Facts view) as well as organize media efficiently (Gallery)….Also, “the new experience was designed to work better across all mobile devices. You’ll be able to see the media gallery, Historical Insights, and LifeStory, too. More improvements for the mobile experience are planned.”

If you’ve been using Story View, the news is mixed. The new LifeStory feature is the next generation of Story View and “is better integrated into the overall profile page.” But Story View is going away–and as of June 1, “if you edit a Story View, the information will not be changed in the new LifeStory.” Also, the current FAQ says that Ancestry still hasn’t decided whether to transfer data from the Story View to the LifeStory.

Ancestry expert Crista Cowan explains the updated Facts view in the new Ancestry site: “Just like before, you will find the facts you’ve discovered and entered about the life of a person in your tree running down the page like a timeline. You will also find that the parents, spouse and children of the person are on the right-hand side of the page just where they have always been. The big change you will discover is that the sources that support those facts and relationships are now front and center.” Read more from her blog post here. The comments on that post and on the original announcement are great places to read the mixed opinions about the new site.

Below is Ancestry’s video about the new site:

Users can currently opt in or out of the new site (click Classic Site or New Ancestry on the username drop-down menu), but that option will go away soon. If you’re still on the fence about using the new site, read Ancestry’s FAQs about the changes, especially those that affect what changes you make from this point forward. Here’s a detailed list of the planned feature roll-outs, along with the estimated dates for them.

Ancestry for saleHave you backed up your Ancestry tree lately? It’s a good idea to do it regularly. We found ourselves reminding people how to do this recently in the wake of news that Ancestry may go up for auction. Read our how-to post here.

 

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