How can I preserve and share my grandmother's final writings?
December 9, 2005 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Help me preserve and share my grandmother's final writings.

Before she died, my grandmother started to write down in an old Mead composition book everything she could remember about her genealogical history and her life . She only wrote about 20 pages before she passed away, but I would like to preserve these pages for as long as possible. The notebook was old anyway (the pages are already starting to yellow) and she just used a ballpoint pen - no archival ink or anything like that. I would like to hear suggestions on the best way to preserve these pages (should I tear them out of the notebook? leave the notebook intact? lock it in a vault somewhere?) as well as suggestions for the best way to share this treasure with my mother. Should I type it up, scan in the pages, or create a website? Do something with the original pages?
posted by aebaxter to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
Have you made copies? Definitely scan them in, and keep multiple copies in different formats. Spread copies around to different family members as well.

I can't speak as to archiving the original, though.
posted by voidcontext at 11:07 AM on December 9, 2005

I would probably do a combination of these things. The original paper should certainly be preserved, but you'll get a LOT more mileage out of some high resolution scanning, and then archival of those images.

For paper preservation, I would recommend contacting your local library and asking for tips. The big evils for paper are moisture (too much OR too little), heat, and insects. The paper itself makes a huge difference as well...that's certainly not acid free paper, and total preservation is almost never going to happen. You can hold off the effects of time, though, by taking a few simple steps.

I would probably do some nice high res scans (600 dpi or so), plus a transcription of the text at a minimum, though.
posted by griffey at 11:11 AM on December 9, 2005

There are certainly paper treatments used by professional archivists, although the more drastic ones are usually left to things like 19th-century pulp; you can often do more harm than good. (There's a comprehensive guide to techniques [PDF] worth reading.)

I'd lean towards scanning or photographing the pages at high resolution, and transcribing them. And then talking to your friendly local archivist before considering doing anything to the document itself. He/she will have experience of how to deal with climate/conditions in your part of the world.
posted by holgate at 11:16 AM on December 9, 2005

Check out this book. I just heard about it on NPR and it seems like it would answer this question pretty well.
posted by elisabeth r at 11:32 AM on December 9, 2005

First back it up, scan and transcribe it.

How old is the book exactly? Pre/post 1960's?

Unless it is already showing signs of major degradation, then I think you could get away with wrapping it in a piece of acid free tissue paper, then a plastic envelope. Maybe then put it in a stiff cardboard box or slipcase if you really want to go over the top. That would cover all bases, as long as you are living in a normal environment and storing the book there. Following these steps should ensure it survives as long as you do - if you want it fresh as a daisy for your great great grandchildren then I would probably seek out a professional. Or wait for a professional to enter this thread :)
posted by fire&wings at 11:56 AM on December 9, 2005

1. Photograph and/or scan the original notebook, front and back.

2. Yes! Remove each page (carefully, of course) from the notebook; if possible, wear cotton gloves while handling the pages.

3. Scan, in high resolution using Fade-Resistant, Photo-Quality Inkjet Paper (Lyson is good), each page; save to an archival disc: Archival Gold DVD-R's may safely store images for more than one hundred years; keep the disc in a safe location - and give copies to 2 or 3 other people in case of disaster; As technology changes, update your method of preservation.

4. Store each page in a high-quality archival sheet protector; keep these in a binder; there are many sheet protector types available, buy the best you can.

5. Transcribe the pages; copy the transcription to disc and print copies to be stored in a safe location.

6. Finally, store the original writings (now in a binder) in an archival storage box or large envelope; keep it in a safe place (fire safe or safety deposit box).

Also, include the location of these items in your will and/or last letter of instructions and/or your letter of designation for tangible properties.
posted by LadyBonita at 12:07 PM on December 9, 2005

Cotton gloves? Really?

The archives library at Cornell doesn't use cotton gloves for anything under about 200 years old. They find that you're more likely to clumsily tear pages with gloves on, than you are likely to do serious damage with the grease on your hands. So you don't need to treat them like relics. And anyway, there's something beautiful about a well-turned page.

But do wash your hands.
posted by metaculpa at 12:50 PM on December 9, 2005

Yep. Really.
posted by LadyBonita at 3:19 PM on December 9, 2005

As an archivist, the way I would handle this is to make two copies onto acid free paper. One copy will be your preservation copy, one will be your use copy. Go to the light impressions or hollinger web site and get acid free paper, an acid free box and a couple acid free folders or envelopes. Put your original in an envelope, and the preservation copy in an envelope. Put them in the acid free box. Put the box in a space safe from temperature fluctuations, humidity, light and plumbing. With the use copy you can make more copies, put into a presentation binder, scan, whatever. If you feel this document has historical significance consider making a donation to a local archive where it will be available to the public and cared for by professionals in a secure environment.
posted by modavis at 3:00 PM on December 10, 2005

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