Preserve paper documents

Birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, diplomas, deeds, maps, journals, letters are just a few of the types of paper documents that have family history significance. Most of these items were printed on acidic paper that contained lignin (used to bind the wood pulp together).

Store them flat in archival enclosures (pass the PAT) with buffered paper inserts. The buffered paper will counter-balance the acid in the paper.

Newspaper clippings

Newspaper since 1830 has been printed on low quality paper with high acid content. Take care to keep it away from other types of documents, photos, and film. If the newspaper has potential historic value, you can deacidify it for safer and longer storage. Store original newspaper clippings flat, rather than folded, in polyester folders with alkaline-buffered inserts. No pressure-sensitive tape, not even if it’s labeled “archival."

The best way to preserve newspaper clippings is to make a high-quality photocopy. Use paper and ink that are PAT compliant. Or, borrow the method used by libraries and museums—make microfilm copies. Afterward, they destroy the original newspaper. Use a single-lens reflex camera and zero-focus lens to take a photo of the clipping and have it processed on microfilm.

Whichever method you use, be sure to record the origin details of the article—newspaper name and date. Use PAT material for that as well.

How to deacidify newspaper clippings

  1. Make an archival quality photocopy first.
  2. Practice with similar sized, new newspaper clippings.
  3. Mix 1 capful milk of magnesia with 1 bottle club soda (1 liter).
  4. Store sealed overnight in the refrigerator
  5. Pour solution into a rectangular glass baking dish.
  6. Carefully place the clipping into the solution and leave for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Remove and place between white print-free paper towels & gently blot.
  8. Remove wet clipping and place between clean, dry paper towels with a weight on top. Let sit overnight.

More Preservation


“Preserving Family Papers”  National Archives

“United States Newspaper Program”  Library of Congress

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Copyright September 2009 Family History Coach. All rights reserved   Last update April 27, 2010


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