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Newspapers are generally not made to last. Here are some ways to prolong their life.
Newspapers are usually produced from poor quality pulp and are inherently unstable. In direct sunlight, they turn yellow and become brittle very quickly. To prolong their life, adequate storage is the key, and digitisation is also recommended.
- Some papers and boards can accelerate degradation. Storage materials should be made from acid-free, archival and buffered board or paper.
- Buffering agents absorb the acid produced by impurities in the newspaper. Art stores or stationery suppliers may stock these materials.
- The ideal storage method is to place them neatly inside a folder and then lay this folder flat in a lidded box. The base of the box should be a similar size to the folder to prevent the newspaper moving around, but with enough room to pick the folder up. This type of storage will protect your newspaper against dust, light, pollutants and pests. It will also prevent the paper slumping from its own weight.
- Newspaper clippings, or single sheets, can be placed in clear pockets and stored in an album for easy viewing. The materials you choose are critical. Polyester, polypropylene and polyethylene are stable plastics. Avoid products containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
- Best practice is to use a plastic pocket and a paper backing board placed behind the clipping. The plastic pocket will absorb acidic by-products and provide stiff backing support for fragile items. Albums can be purchased from art and stationary suppliers.
- The ideal conditions are 20°C and 50% relative humidity, with minimal fluctuation. It can be difficult to maintain these conditions, so the general advice is to find a cool, dark, stable environment with good ventilation. High temperatures and humidity can accelerate the degradation of paper, and encourage mould growth and pest activity.
- Avoid storing items in attics, basements, areas near heat sources and external walls. If possible, use a storage site in the centre of a building. These areas undergo the least fluctuation in temperature and humidity.
- Label storage boxes and folders for easy retrieval. If you need to annotate your newspapers, use a soft B pencil. Do not use pens, as the ink bleeds and stains the paper.
- Inspect and clean storage areas regularly to prevent pest infestation.
- If mould or pest infestation occurs, remove material to a light and airy place. Consult a professional conservator.
- Do not use metal staples and paper clips, as these can rust and stain the paper.
- Be aware that newspapers can stain other items if they are stored side by side.
- Do not stuff your newspapers into boxes as the edges can be damaged.
- Use clean hands when handling and take care with brittle pages.
- It is a good idea to make a digital copy of your newspaper. Creating a digital surrogate will avoid over-use and subsequent damage.
- A hard copy made from the digital image can be used for handling, and display purposes.
- To make the copy last, use alkaline buffered paper. In many public collections, newspapers are copied onto microfilm or digitised to preserve the information they contain.
If you have further questions or would like specific advice about conservation, please contact us through ASK A LIBRARIAN
We are unable to give advice on the conservation treatment of heritage items. We recommend you contact a professional conservator, who can assess each item and recommend options. A conservator will charge a fee.