News From Terre Haute, Indiana


May 19, 2013

GENEALOGY: Follow ‘Tips on Caring for Documents and Photographs’

TERRE HAUTE — I recently read an article called “Tips on Caring for Documents and Photographs,” by Tamara Hemmerlein, Hoosier Heritage Alliance Coordinator for the Indiana Historical Society, in a newsletter I get from the IHS. The article was so informative, I decided to present almost all of it here, with their permission:


• Wash your hands. And don’t use lotion before you work with your photos and documents.

• Avoid touching or rubbing the image.

• Consider wearing white cotton or disposable gloves. Use your judgment–gloves that don’t fit tightly can cause damage. If you use gloves, be sure they are clean. Change them often and wash cotton gloves with a scent-free, dye-free detergent.

Storage of papers:

• Remove all fasteners from the paper.

• Unfold documents if possible. If the documents crack or tear while you’re unfolding them, stop immediately to prevent further damage.

• Separate poor-quality and high-quality papers to avoid acid burn. Lower quality papers have a higher acid content. As they deteriorate, they may damage other documents and photos.

• Store papers in acid-free folders. Store as few items in one folder as possible. Extremely fragile, important or valuable papers should be stored individually.

Storage of photographs:

• The best way to store photographs is in separate envelopes, folders or sleeves.

• Paper enclosures should be acid- and lignin-free.

• Storing several photos together can cause damage to the images. As the photo touches other photos, the image can be abraded and become scratched.


• Expose paper to light as little as possible. Light damage is cumulative and irreversible.

• When possible, use high-quality copies to replace the originals.

• Newspaper and color photographs are very sensitive to light. Newspaper will discolor and become brittle. Color photographs will change color and fade. Black-and-white photos will also fade, but at a different rate from color photos.

• Use acid-free mat board when framing documents.

• Be sure that the photo or document doesn’t touch the glass. Images and documents can adhere to glass over time and removal is difficult. Removing paper from glass may cause permanent damage. Using an acid-free mat will create space between the photo and the glass.


• Remember to record the date, place, event and names of people pictured.

• If you are using a database to keep track of your documents and photos, develop a cross-referencing system, so that it is clear which record belongs to which photo or document. Make back-ups of the information and store them off-site.

• If you choose to write on the photo or document, use a soft lead pencil and write on the back.

• Never use stickers or ink to mark an image.

• Never write on the image itself.

For more information about the Indiana Historical Society, visit, or call them at 317-232-1882. Visit the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center at 450 West Ohio Street in Indianapolis, a great summertime destination.


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