How best to store and preserve old magazines?
June 9, 2014 4:16 AM   Subscribe

I have a dozen old Omni magazines that I'd like to take better care of. They're over thirty years old now and the covers are starting to come off, the page edges are slightly worn, etc. Right now they're just standing on my bookshelf. I'd like to keep them in good condition but also be able to read them, without worrying too much that they'll be damaged in the process. Can they be rebound somehow? Should I just keep them in plastic sleeves, or is there another idea I haven't thought of?
posted by daisyk to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How much money do you want to throw at this? If the covers are going to be goners soon, one rather involved idea would be to slice the binding off, and put the pages in something like this art portfolio with plastic sleeves.

There are magazine binders if the binding is good to go for a long time.
posted by kmennie at 4:36 AM on June 9, 2014

Before getting too involved in rebinding projects, if the main point of preservation is so they can be read vs. saved/displayed, the whole run of Omni is up on The Internet Archive in various formats for reading and download.
posted by Captain_Science at 4:47 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

We have some fashion magazines that are nearly 100 years old. We keep them individually wrapped in acid-free paper, stored in an acid-free box in a climate-controlled part of the house. The supplies are available at the Container Store.

Our mags spent the first 80 years of their lives in a box under a bed in a smoker's house with three generations of kids playing with them, so they are in rough shape and we try to limit how much we handle them (although they are fascinating). We haven't gotten cotton gloves (because of the oils and gunk on skin) but probably should. I did scan all the covers so we have them as digital files that could be printed out and displayed.

Now, yours aren't nearly that old, but they will be someday if you start taking care of them now - although this may be a more extreme tact than you want to take right now.

Here are some tips on paper preservation
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:54 AM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the archives I've worked at, interestingly, the approach is most often not to wear gloves when handling old paper. Very clean and dry hands, yes, but not gloves. Gloves make you just clumsy enough that aging paper too easily cracks or snags when you touch a corner or turn a page.

(With the super-oldest of old paper, they tend not to touch them with hands, bare or gloved, and instead turn pages with little spatulas. But you don't need to read your Omnis with robot arms or anything. I mean unless you really want to.)

I think you should read them and enjoy them, using whatever minimal intervention best suits your budget--whether it's just magazine-holders for a bookshelf, or one of the portfolio or binder ideas people have been mentioning here. This prioritizes easy access, since your goal is lookiing at and reading them, not making them an out-of-sight Object and attempting some kind of quasi-archive that you're planning to hand down to future generations--and I think this is the best goal, to keep the magazines part of your life and interests rather than mistakenly thinking you need to hoard them against a future Omni famine and make them your descendants' problem.

(And as Captain_Science pointed out--it's been scanned to Internet Archive, and while of course that's no guarantee of magical electronic eternity--and printed material inarguably handles much longer periods of benign neglect much better than electronic data-- it does make it easier for the whole package of data to potentially be migrated, duplicated, and forwarded down the years, without you having to worry overmuch about your few issues as they develop acid problems or whatever.)
posted by theatro at 6:49 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Archivist here, seconding everything theatro said just above. No gloves, clean hands, and think about prioritizing access over preservation (if that's what you want to do).

No matter what, DO NOT laminate the pages. Don't laminate anything. Ever.

Mylar sleeves are fine.
posted by magdalemon at 7:29 AM on June 9, 2014

Somewhere in New York, there is a store that specializes in old magazines and paper ephemera. One thing I noticed about my visit: all the magazines were stored in stacks, not upright on shelves.

This place was kind of a dump, with most of the magazines just out in the open in piles/stacks. A lot of the magazines were 50-60 years old and they were mostly in fairly good condition despite no special storage considerations aside from horizontal/vertical.

If you're hoping to keep these magazines for the long haul, like a century or more, I would start getting into archival boxes, climate control, white gloves, and the like. But if you're just hoping to keep them for your own enjoyment during your lifetime, I doubt any of that is really necessary.
posted by Sara C. at 8:41 AM on June 9, 2014

Before getting too involved in rebinding projects, if the main point of preservation is so they can be read vs. saved/displayed, the whole run of Omni is up on The Internet Archive in various formats for reading and download.

Though it should be noted that its copy consists of scans of middling-to-poor quality, often badly converted as well. It's not easy to read, and I certainly wouldn't pin any hopes for posterity on it.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2014

Also, needless to say, you should store them away from sunlight.
posted by Sara C. at 9:18 AM on June 9, 2014

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