Preserving Personal Collections

Many people have personal archives - letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, home movies, and so on. Archivists are often asked by members of the public for advice on the best way to preserve these materials. Some basic principles to keep in mind:

Stable environment: Rapid changes in temperature and humidity can cause damage. Store collections in an area where conditions remain constant - avoid basements, attics, and garages.

Other hazards: Look out for water pipes, heat sources, flood-prone areas, etc. before choosing a place to store your collections. Keep items off the floor in case of flooding. Light is damaging to many materials; keep collections out of direct light if possible. Watch out for dirt, mold, and pests.

Reversibility: Don't do anything that can't be reversed later (for example, punching holes or laminating).

Storage: Use archival storage materials (acid-free boxes and folders; safe plastics like polyester, polyethylene, polypropylene). Beware of the overused (and often inaccurate) "archival" label on product packaging; buy from reputable vendors to ensure the products are actually safe for your materials.

For more detailed information on preserving various types of materials, visit these websites:

Municipal Archives, City Clerk

Anne Frantilla, City Archivist
Address: 600 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94728, Seattle, WA, 98124-4728
Phone: (206) 684-8353

The Office of the City Clerk maintains the City's official records, provides support for the City Council, and manages the City's historical records through the Seattle Municipal Archives. The Clerk's Office provides information services to the public and to City staff.