Documents come in many forms and all of them require special consideration when it comes to storage. If you are going to place important papers, certificates, photographs, etc., don’t just toss them into a box and put them in a corner.
If you do not protect your documents against temperature, light, moisture, pollution, and pests, you may not have documents to retrieve. All have the ability to cause important papers and photos to decay, fade, mildew, or be destroyed. Temperature controlled, dry, dark storage is best and make sure that there is adequate pest control in place.
Most documents are important records that you will need in the future. Some are one-of-a-kind and priceless. Other documents could be used to steal your identity, so you need to be careful with those as well. That makes security a priority. Consider secured storage such as safes and locked boxes for these items and if you’re renting a storage unit, choose a facility that has security cameras, good lighting, strong locks, and regular patrolling and monitoring.
Organization is vital to make it easy for you to retrieve documents at the appropriate time. Having everything secure and safe is great, but you don’t want to have to open every box and file cabinet in order to find that one document that you need.
Preparing Documents for Storage
Here are some points to keep in mind when you store papers, photos, and other documents:
- Rubber bands, staples, and paper clips and other metal or plastic clips should be removed before storage
- Use folders, albums, boxes, and containers that are acid free or chemically stable
- All papers and photos should be flat, rather than rolled or folded
- If you are making notes ON a document, use a soft pencil and print in an unobtrusive corner
- For documents that are already fading, create a duplicate of the text on acid-free paper and store with/near the original
- Do not use tape, glue, or other adhesive to affix things into albums
- Photocopy newsprint documents on acid-free paper and store the original separately
- Make digital copies of film, slides, videotape and other recordings
- Do not store film in metal containers
- Consider making a transcript of audio and video files that are of a historical nature
- Store color photos separate from black and white photos
- Wear gloves to protect documents from skin oils and smudges
- Make an inventory sheet of the contents of each box and store it with the documents.
- Keep a separate copy of all inventory in a different location
- Label each box or container with a summary of the contents
- Consider making a “map” of the location of each box and container keyed to the master inventory so you can easily locate documents later
Whether you are storing documents for business or preserving important family items, following these guidelines will help you breathe easier about the safety of your archive.