Minnesota History Center
345 W. Kellogg Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55102
Hours and Admissions

Ask a Conservator

How do I preserve my letters and other paper documents?

  • There are two major components to preservation: organization and storage.
  • First gather them together, identify what each item is, then organize in a way that will be meaningful to the people who will use them
  • Storage consists of placing items or groups into appropriate acid-free housings — envelopes, folders, boxes, and them keeping them in a good storage environment.
  • A Checklist for Preserving Family Papers has many good tips on storing and displaying paper heirlooms

How do I save a newspaper clipping?

  • If newspaper clippings are being kept for the content as distinct from keeping the original paper as an artifact, photocopy onto acid-free paper, which will last much longer than the original.
  • If the original clipping is being kept as an artifact, store in an acid-free envelope, folder or sleeve.
  • For more information on preserving newspaper clippings, see: Preserving Newspapers: When and How To (pdf) Minnesota History Interpreter Tech Talk, March 1997.

I have boxes of family photographs. Where do I start? How do I preserve them?

  • Start by gathering all the material together. Identify each item, writing as much information as is known.
  • Organize them in a way that is meaningful to the people who will use them; two common ways are chronologically and alphabetically.
  • The next step is to put the photographs or groups of photographs into acid-free albums, envelopes, folders, and boxes. Keep the material in a good environment, which usually means not the attic or basement.
  • A Checklist for Preserving Family Photographs has many good tips on storing and displaying heirloom family photographs.

I have a leather flight jacket that is getting dry. What can I put on it?

  • The best thing to put on the leather is nothing. Research has shown that leather dressings are rarely helpful and in some cases actually cause damage.
  • For more detail see: Leather Dressing: To Dress or Not to Dress (pdf). National Park Service. Conserve-O-Gram: 9/1.