Preserving your past

Whether they’re the special photos of your parents’ honeymoon or the letters your grandparents exchanged during World War I, you—and so many other members of the Bulldog Family—have important materials that future generations should get to enjoy.

When award-winning archivist Mona Vance-Ali presented at Mississippi State’s 12th E.O. Templeton Jr. History & Genealogy Fair during the summer, she shared techniques that you can use to ensure your family can hang on to the pictures and documents that tell your history.

•  Your collection should include the materials that matter most to you: photographs, scrapbooks, letters, papers, books, electronic records, etc.
• Handle materials as little as possible, and keep the work areas clean.
• Digitally scan or copy all your materials, print and photograph. One scan will not deteriorate your materials if they are in good condition, and you will have the advantage of electronic copies of the originals.

• Never do anything to your materials that’s NOT easily reversible.
• Never store materials in the attic, basement, barn or garage.
•  Never laminate or glue documents together. Never use staples or tape.
• Never write with pens on photos or other materials.

•  While no brick-and-mortar stores in the greater Northeast Mississippi area sell archive-quality materials, experts in Mississippi State’s Mitchell Memorial Library can advise novice archivists, wherever they are, about appropriate materials and where to get them.
• For an appointment, contact Neil Guilbeau, coordinator of University Archives, Mississippiana and Rare Books, at 662-325-3935 or, or Ryan Semmes, interim coordinator of MSU’s Congressional and Political Research Center, at 662-325-9355 or
• Consider installing ultraviolet protectors for lights and dehumidifiers set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Use quality, chemically inert archival supplies, including archival tape, archival storage boxes, alkaline- or lignin-free file folders, and Mylar film.
•  Use chemically inert plastic paperclips to keep materials together. Though a bump will result, these clips will not rust or stain the documents or photos.
•  If an archival material is marked “acid-free” but doesn’t have a pH listed, be suspicious of whether it will chemically react with the item placed inside it.
• For photographs, materials should have a pH between 7.5 and 8.5 and they should pass the Photographic Activity Test, often signified by ANSI IT9.16 Photographic Activity Test (PAT). Learn more about the PAT at:
•  Use a pencil to label materials separately from the archived materials, and include relevant information, such as who, what, when, where and why.
•  Store materials only in temperature controlled areas where air circulates freely, such as in the central part of your home in boxes, closets or under beds or other furniture.

By Leah Barbour