Don’t despair. Before you add your old newspapers to the recycling bin, get to the bottom of the story about how to create a properly preserved family news archive.
1. Digitize your clippings.
I don’t recommend using your desktop scanner for anything larger than the scanning glass because it’s difficult to maneuver a full newspaper page without damaging the paper.
2. Protect against acids.
The cost of deacidification sprays—about $14 to $50 for a 6-ounce bottle—and the amount needed for an entire newspaper or collection of clippings makes it impractical for many family archivists. If you do use a spray, test it first on a small area to make sure the ink won’t run. You can find internet recipes for homemade deacidification solutions, though reliability varies. The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) recommends against these. For home archives, the NEDCC says it’s more practical to digitize clippings and print copies on archival paper, then properly store the originals (see step 4).
3. Organize and file.
I also keep printed transcriptions, abstracts and extracts of newspaper articles in my file. Print copies of your digitized clippings on acid-free, buffered archival paper. Consider making duplicates for your genealogy files.
4. Store safely.
Evaluate the size of your collection and purchase suitable-sized archival boxes, folders and buffered acid-free tissue (see the box for suppliers). You’ll need newspaper-size boxes for full-size sheets and folder-size boxes for clippings.Open full newspapers flat and store them separated by buffered tissue and folders. I find it easier to keep track of clippings by storing the sleeves in three-ring binders. Archival suppliers offer acid-free, lignin-free notebooks with slipcases and tab dividers you can use. You might need to keep large clipping files in a filing cabinet.
Store your boxes and binders away from light, dust, pests, and extreme temperatures and humidity. If you keep your file in a cabinet, open it occasionally to air out any acids that have been “off-gassed.” Your newspaper archive should be stored separately from other material in your archive—don’t put photographs and documents in the same folders or boxes. Periodically review the file and remove any damaged items. Reprint them on new archival paper if necessary.