Proper Care and Handling of Newspapers and Newspaper Clippings
Taking care when handling any collection item, especially large format, poor-quality paper items like newspapers, is one of the more effective, cost-efficient, and easily achieved preservation measures.
Take proper care when handling newspapers by:
- Having clean hands and a clean, large work table on which to use the newspaper
- Keeping the newspaper flat and fully supported on the table during use
- Keeping food and drink away
- Never folding the paper back on itself
- Refolding the paper using the original center fold and with the edges neatly aligned
- Not using paper clips, "dog ear" folding, acidic inserts, rubber bands, self-adhesive tape, and/or glue on newspapers and clippings
Proper Storage of Newspapers
Newspapers from the mid-19th century onwards are printed on inexpensive, machine-made, wood pulp paper that is not manufactured for longevity. Due to the inherent chemical instabilities of such low-quality wood pulp papers, these newspapers are inherently acidic. Good storage is especially critical to the preservation of acidic papers, but the following guidelines apply to all newspapers, including those from before the mid-19th century, which are printed on better quality paper:
- A cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)
- Minimal exposure to all kinds of light; no exposure to direct or intense light
- Distance from radiators and vents
- Supportive protective enclosures;* binding of newspapers is not recommended
- Flat storage**
* Supportive protective enclosures include: acid- and lignin-free buffered folders, flat boxes with lids the same depth as the base, and stiff boards for board-setting ("Special Handling for Unbound Materials," Harvard College Library Conservation Guidelines, p. 10 [PDF: 369 KB / 10 pp.]). Clear polyester sleeves can be useful for clippings and papers that have been deacidified by a conservator. Note that polyester sleeves carry a static charge that can damage brittle newspapers, do not have an alkaline buffer, which provides a desirable neutralizing effect on acids in paper, and add considerable weight and bulk to storage.
The Northeast Document Conservation Center has put together very useful technical leaflets on storage enclosures for paper items as well as a list for Conservation/Preservation Supplies and Equipment — Archival Supplies.
** Store physical newspapers that are used frequently in acid- and lignin-free flat boxes with the lid the same depth as the base. Boxes can be purchased in standard sizes (18 x 24 x 2.5 inches or 24 x 30 x 2.5 inches) and inserts can be made from acid- and lignin-free buffered cardstock to customize the interior size of the box to that of the newspaper. Stack newspapers neatly in chronological order for boxing and prepare a finding aid that fully lists the titles and issues. Clearly label the box with the title(s) and range of dates contained within and attach a list of issues missing from the box to the inside of the lid to prevent unnecessary handling. Physical newspapers that are not used (e.g., because the paper has been preservation microfilmed, see below) can be more economically stored wrapped and bundled in a sturdy acid- and lignin-free buffered paper. Board-setting (see above) can provide further protection and support. Label the bundles following the same protocol for labeling boxes.
Conservation Treatment and Reformatting Options
To address the inherent condition and access challenges presented by newspapers, conservation treatment (which may include neutralizing or reducing inherent acidity) by paper conservator and/or reformatting may be necessary.
The national professional association for conservators, the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) , maintains an online directory for finding a conservator by specialty and geographic location and provides information on how to choose a conservator. In addition, AIC also offers guidelines for the care of collections beyond library materials.
Reformatting options include preservation photocopying, preservation microfilming , and digitization. For institutions, for which access is usually a primary objective, digitization of newspapers usually means digitizing newspaper microfilm. For personal newspaper collections and newspaper clippings, digitization following digitization guidelines used for manuscripts and similar cultural heritage materials makes more sense.
Preservation microfilming remains the most economical and proven option to preserve the intellectual content of newspapers on a large scale. “Preservation microfilming” is distinguished from microfilming by adherence to published standards for all aspects of the creation, maintenance, and storage of the film and assumes strict bibliographic control. If contracting for preservation microfilming services, the service provider should have proven experience with preservation microfilming projects.
Selected Further Reading:
Elkington, Nancy E., editor. Research Libraries Group Preservation Microfilming Handbook . Mountain View, CA: The Research Libraries Group, Inc., 1992.
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). ANSI/AIIM MS111-1994. Micrographics - Standard Recommended Practice for Microfilming Printed Newspapers on 35mm Roll Microfilm.
The preservation procedures described here have been used by the Library of Congress in the care of its collections and are considered suitable by the Library as described; however, the Library will not be responsible for damage to your collection should damage result from the use of these procedures.