By Vince Mancuso, Storage.com
While digitizing of modern and major newspapers across the country has become standard practice, people may often find themselves starting a personal collection of their small hometown newspapers, especially if editions contain personal information—marriage notifications, personal interest stories on a loved one, or perhaps the individuals love for local history.
“When people decide to store newspapers, it really should be because of personal value,” says Gina Minks, immediate past chair of the Society of American Archivists Preservation Section. “It means something to them, or the newspapers contain information that they would like to pass on to their family.”
However, newspapers are sensitive and easily damaged by the elements, which means storing your newspaper collection at home isn’t always feasible. A storage unit, on the other hand, provides local archivists and historians with a safe place for storing newspaper collections for future generations.
What to Look for with Newspaper Collection Storage
Minks says the challenge in storing newspapers is the highly acidic paper used. This acidity causes newspapers to break down at a fast rate. “You can see how quickly newspaper deteriorates if you have every picked up a newspaper after it has been sitting outside in the sun for a few days,” she says.
Climate-controlled storage can protect a sensitive newspaper collection, preventing further damage. A unit equipped with climate control maintains a constant temperature and humidity level so the items stored can’t be ruined by extreme heat or cold, too much moisture, or mold and mildew growth.
Minks says the ideal conditions for storing a newspaper collection are temperatures between 68-72°F with humidity at 45-55%.
“If these conditions cannot be attained, it’s important to try and have a consistent environment at the least,” Minks adds. “Avoiding huge fluctuations in both temperature and relative humidity is ideal.”
Another thing she recommends is finding a unit that can only be accessed from inside a storage facility building, rather than one that opens to the outdoors. This keeps sunlight from damaging the collection. “Heat and light will speed up the aging process and cause the newspapers to turn brown and brittle.”
Preparing a Newspaper Collection for Storage
Once you’ve found a unit for your newspapers, it’s time to begin the storage preparation process. It’s important to use newspaper preservation techniques; otherwise, your collection could deteriorate over time.
Minks says newspapers should be unrolled or unfolded and placed in an acid-free box that’s large enough for them to lie flat. “Within the box, newspapers should be in acid-free folders to keep them from touching each other. Acid-free tissue paper can also be used to interleaf the pages.”
If you have newspaper clippings that you keep in scrapbooks, however, Minks says interleaving clippings with acid-free tissue paper should keep them from staining one another as they break down.
For more tips on preparing your collection for storage, Minks recommends visiting the Library of Congress’s webpage on preservation measures for newspapers.
How to Store Newspapers and Take Them Out of Storage
When it comes time to place a newspaper collection in self storage, Minks suggests finding ways to avoid placing the boxes directly on the floor. This keeps your collection from being damaged by flooding, rodents and insects, or other items in your unit.
The best way to avoid these damages is to find a storage unit with built-in shelves or add your own shelving to your unit. This also makes it easier to organize the boxes containing your collection.
As Minks says, a newspaper collection can be a treasure trove of information, so eventually it will be taken out of storage to share with younger generations or for personal research. However, due to the paper’s high acidity, care should be taken when newspapers out of storage.
“Because of the fragile nature, newspapers should be allowed to acclimate to the room [before handling],” Mink says, adding that they should be handled gently, as the paper may become brittle over time.
When storing a personal newspaper collection, be sure to find climate-controlled storage, properly preserve your collection ahead of storage, and keep boxes or storage containers off of your unit’s floor. All of these steps will help you keep your collection good for many years to come.